Germany coach Loew: Argentina is the favorite

South Africa: Germany coach Joachim Loew called Argentina a favorite to win the World Cup, and said on Wedneday that it would be a mistake to believe Lionel Messi is the only good player in Diego Maradona`s team.

Loew said he expected a close game when the two teams play each other in the quarterfinals in Cape Town on Saturday.

"Argentina has a great many strengths. It`s one of the big favorites, maybe the favorite for the World Cup title," Loew said.

"It has a big defence and an outstanding offence. It`s not only Lionel Messi. But I think we have identified some areas where Argentina is vulnerable."

He declined to give details.

Loew predicted that Saturday`s match would be "intense and physical", as was the encounter at the same stage four years ago in Germany, when the hosts went through to the semifinals on penalties.

That match was marred by a punch-up after the shootout that involved players and officials from both benches.

"I am also expecting an attacking game," Loew said. "Argentina is a tightly knit team that can give you a lot of trouble and they are clinical in punishing your mistakes."

In the shootout in 2006, Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann took a cheat sheet out of his sock with information on the Argentine penalty takers and which way they usually took their kicks.

Not now.

"When you see how many penalty takers they have, it would make no sense," Loew said.

Loew described Maradona as "a genius, phenomenal" in his playing days, "an idol to millions of fans."

“It`s difficult to judge him as a coach. I don`t really know him," Loew said. "But what I`ve read and what the team has shown is positive."

Loew said forward Cacau was unlikely to recover from a right-thigh injury in time for the match.

Cacau will not train with the team today and he will have a fitness test before Saturday`s match. Cacau is usually a backup to Miroslav Klose.

Germany will uncharacteristically fly to Cape Town two days before the match and not as usual one day before.

Loew said the team wants to "train in tranquility" in Cape Town on Friday.

Michael Ballack, the captain who had to miss the World Cup because of an ankle injury, will visit the team at its Cape Town hotel, and German chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to attend Saturday`s match.


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