Belgium must win to secure playoff spot

BY foxsports • October 10, 2011

Belgium coach Georges Leekens said his players ''will need guts'' if they are to seal a place in the playoffs and ruin Germany's perfect record in 2012 European Championship qualifying on Tuesday.

Anything less than a win in Duesseldorf against a Germany side that has already qualified after winning all nine games in Group A, will give Turkey a chance to reach the playoffs as the runner-up.

Turkey is one point behind second-place Belgium and expected to easily beat Azerbaijan in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Belgium has not beaten Germany for 57 years, and its last win on German soil was a 3-0 win in Duisburg on May 16, 1910.

''We will need guts since we have nothing to lose,'' Leekens said.

Germany coach Joachim Loew made it clear his side will be out to win, and won't be thinking about helping other teams.

''The target is winning 10 from 10 games, but not to give Turkey a present,'' said Loew, who complimented his players on maintaining their concentration on winning all their qualifiers.

Germany won 3-1 in Turkey on Friday, but Loew is looking for improvement against Belgium.

''I wasn't fully happy with the Turkey game. There were a few things that we must improve upon. We played very well, but we weren't as convincing as we were in games before ... We were the better team, we displayed competence, intelligent play and confidence on the pitch, but we need to work on a few things to be better again,'' Loew said.

''Belgium has the chance for a playoff in their own hands so they'll be highly motivated.''

Midfielder Mario Goetze has been excused but Mesut Oezil is training again after recovering from an Achilles problem that kept him out of the Turkey game.

''If Mesut comes through training this evening and is passed fit by the medical staff, he'll play from the start,'' Loew said Monday.

Midfielders Ilkay Guendogan and Toni Kroos joined Germany's squad on Saturday, but defender Jerome Boateng and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger are doubtful, while striker Miroslav Klose is ruled out.

''There's still a question mark over Basti. We'll have to see how he gets on in training. I decided this morning that Klose won't play. He's still experiencing pain in his knee,'' said Loew, who added that Boateng is still affected by ''a small muscular problem'' picked up in the Turkey game.

Loew expects Belgium will be a tougher opponent than Turkey.

''They're better going forward than Turkey so they'll pose more questions of our defense. They'll be looking to create chances up front. The team has a good mixture of youth and experience, with some very good technical players,'' Loew said.

''Belgium are very good going forward, so we'll have to be careful.''

Bayern Munich teammates Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez both highlighted Germany's will to complete qualification without dropping a point for the first time.

''We'll do everything we can against Belgium to win the game,'' said Gomez, with Mueller adding: ''I want to play a good game so I can read more positive reviews in the newspapers.''

Eden Hazard, one of the stars of the French league, is doubtful for Belgium with a tender ankle after being stamped upon during his standout performance in the side's 4-1 win over Kazakhstan on Friday.

''The chances that he makes it are about 60 percent,'' Leekens said. ''We have to see whether that is good enough to put him in the starting lineup.''

Leekens already has to do without Bayern Munich defender Daniel Van Buyten, who is suspended for the key match against an opponent he knows after picking up a yellow card against Kazakhstan.

''With Van Buyten we both had added length in defense and the possibility to score off set pieces,'' Leekens said.

The Belgium coach will likely bring in St. Petersburg's Nicolas Lombaerts at the heart of the defense alongside Manchester City's Vincent Kompany.

Hazard told UEFA's website it would be ''the biggest match of my career'' if he plays.

''I believe in us. We could have won at home to Germany but one mistake killed us. If we hit our peak on Tuesday, and avoid those little mistakes, then we certainly stand a chance,'' he said.

Despite its array of players in some of the world's best leagues, Belgium has yet to come back to the standing it enjoyed in international football two decades ago.

A victory and a place in the playoffs would go a long way in boosting confidence.

''It would be the biggest surprise of the year,'' Leekens said.

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