Lahm must play at right-back, says Ballack

The former Germany player believes Joachim Low must return the Bayern Munich star to the defence from his current place in the centre of midfield

Former Germany captain Michael Ballack has urged Joachim Low to play Philipp Lahm at right-back for the remainder of the World Cup.

The current captain has been utilised as a central midfielder at Bayern Munich for most of the season under Pep Guardiola and Low has followed that example by utilising him in the middle of the park for the national team.

Following the injury to Shkodran Mustafi, Low has been urged to return Lahm to his natural position, but has already insisted he will remain in the centre of midfield. However, Ballack insists the 30-year-old should be put back into the back line.

“I still believe we need Philipp to play in the back four for Germany,” he told Times of India. “He is much more valuable there. He has played there for years and has turned into a world-class player and he is one of the best.

“Why should we rob ourselves of Lahm in a position the whole world envies us for? We, as Germany, only weaken ourselves by playing someone else as a right or left-back.

“Lahm is taking away a place in the middle of the park for another world-class player. And that’s Bastian Schweinsteiger for me.

“Joachim Low needs to take a wise decision for the remainder of the tournament with Mustafi out, so that we can win the title.

“Low needs to use Lahm as a wing-back and play in the middle with either Schweinsteiger and Kroos or Schweinsteiger and Khedira.”

The former Bayern Munich player praised Low for sticking by Mesut Ozil, who he hopes will become more influential in the rest of the tournament.

“I’m surprised by the critical views on Mesut Ozil’s performance. For me, he is and remains an extraordinary player for Germany.

“Ozil hasn’t had a good tournament so far but maybe his late goal against Algeria in the pre-quarters will give him the confidence to be a match-winner for Germany going ahead.

“Other nations envy us for having players like Ozil and Gotze. But I find it positive that Low backs Ozil through all this criticism. Not only him, Low does it in general with his players.”

Robben: We're on a mission at the World Cup

The Bayern Munich winger says his national team are proud of what they have achieved so far in Brazil, and that they want to go even further in the tournament

Arjen Robben says Netherlands are “on a mission” to win the World Cup for the first time.

The Dutch suffered the disappointment of being beaten finalists for the third time four years ago in South Africa after losing to Spain, and they have never lifted football’s most-coveted prize.

But Robben and his team-mates are out to change that in Brazil, where Louis van Gaal’s men have won each of their four games so far en route to the quarter-finals.

The Bayern Munich winger told “I think we are on a mission together, and when you come to a World Cup it’s not to enjoy the weather and enjoy the beach in Rio. 

“You’re here to win matches and to go as far as possible. I don’t think the expectations were that high before the tournament and, as a result, we can be very proud of where we are.”

Such spirit has certainly been on show to date, with Netherlands reaching the last eight – where they will face Costa Rica – thanks to a dramatic late comeback against Mexico.

A goal down after 87 minutes, Van Gaal’s side turned the game on its head thanks to a fine strike from Wesley Sneijder and substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s last-ditch penalty.

Robben puts much of the credit down to the head coach, who will take the reins at Manchester United at the conclusion of the tournament.

“We have a fantastic manager who knows exactly which players to bring on at what time and how to change things on the pitch, so that’s fantastic,” he added.

Low: Lahm will play in midfield against France

The Germany boss insists that he has made up his mind over the Bayern Munich player’s role and defended his tactical approach ahead of the quarter-final against les Bleus

Joachim Low has confirmed that he will continue to utilise Philipp Lahm in the Germany midfield ahead of their upcoming World Cup clash with France.

The Germany captain has played most of his career a full-back but has increasingly been deployed in the centre of the pitch for both club and country.

Low, acknowledging the debate that this has fostered in Germany, dismissed suggestions that he could be swayed from his existing plans, and emphasised that he has decided upom Lahm’s role for the rest of the World Cup.

“I took my decisions and that includes Philipp Lahm’s role – I stand by it until the end,” the 54-year-old told Die Zeit.

“Lahm will only play as right back in case we have a case of emergency on the right wing during the match. Then I’d say: ‘Okay, now this is Philipp Lahm’s task, he can contribute to the pressure going forward.’ But we have to avoid a case of emergency.

“There are several players in our team who can play in different positions offering huge quality. I realise there will always be discussions about who plays and who does not play.”

Low also sought to defend Lahm and Mesut Ozil from some of the criticism they have recently received.

“This kind of public criticism is not understandable for me,” he said of Ozil, who scored the second in Germany’s 2-1 win over Algeria on Monday.

“The same with the criticism of Lahm. Mesut Ozil was the standout player in the tournaments in 2010 and 2012. I can’t just forget that. Plus, I always have big faith in my players, even though they’re not having a good run.”

Ahead of facing France in the Maracana on Friday, Low also was keen to play down concerns over Germany’s display against Algeria, stressing that the result should be the focus.

“Should I be disappointed we progressed?” he said.

“We made easy mistakes and lost the ball too often. At a World Cup you can’t play fantastically every match. But you have to win and that is what we managed to do.”

Robben: I shouldn't be punished for being honest about diving

The Netherlands winger feels people should accept his admission of diving in the last 16 game against Mexico, stressing that he does not fear any repercussions after the incident

Arjen Robben believes that he has been “honest and fair” over his diving in Netherlands’ game with Mexico and it is time to move on.

The 30-year-old was put under scrutiny after winning a decisive penalty in the Oranje’s 2-1 second round win, particularly after he admitted that he had tried to earn a free kick despite feeling no contact in the first half of the encounter.

However, despite expressing regret for his dive, Robben was adamant he was fouled by Rafael Marquez for the penalty and feels that a line should now be drawn under the affair.

“I can only repeat what I said after the match,” the Dutchman said in an interview with the Times of India.

“I really must apologise as in the first half I took a dive and I really shouldn’t do that. That was a stupid thing to do but sometimes you’re expecting to be struck, then they pull their leg away at the last minute and I went to the ground without a touch.

“But I was fouled by Marquez! You can see it on television. So the one at the end was a penalty.

“Everyone is allowed to have their opinion. I said it before the game, I also say it now that I will say what I think is honest and fair. Not everyone has to agree with me, they just need to respect whatever happened.

“I am an honest guy and said what I did was wrong. That should be the end of the story. Maybe sometimes you are punished for honesty but I always prefer to be honest!”

Netherlands now face Costa Rica in their quarter-final in Salvador on Saturday and Robben admits that he regrets the fact his comments have overshadowed his side’s achievements.

“It is a shame there is so much discussion because we put on a great performance as a team,” he acknowledged.

“That should be the main thing. Sometimes, you know, I like to be honest and I again apologise for this action in the first half but that is football. It had nothing to do with the result of the game.

“It was a lot of hard work and some work and some luck for us in the end to turn things around so late in the game against Mexico. It was a deserving win in the end and we are proud to reach the quarter-finals.

“Costa Rica are difficult opponents, otherwise they wouldn’t have ended up in a quarter-final topping a group with Uruguay, Italy and England, and then beating Greece. It won’t be easy for us.”

Beckenbauer warns 'lucky' Neuer over risky sweeping

The West Germany great suggested the goalkeeper risked being sent off against Algeria after rushing from his goal on a number of occasions and must be careful against France

Franz Beckenbauer has urged Manuel Neuer to be careful with his tendency to act as a sweeper in Germany’s 2-1 win over Algeria.

Die Nationalmannschaft progressed to the quarter-finals following a tight encounter on Monday night, with extra-time strikes from Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil giving them a two-goal before Abdelmoumene Djabou pulled one back late on.

Neuer’s performance in the game in Porto Alegre was defined by the number of occasions that he rushed from his box to help his defence and, whilst backing the Bayern Munich shot stopper, Beckenbauer acknowledged he was taking some significant risks.

“I would not say he’s a better sweeper [than me],” the 68-year-old told a press conference.

“But he’s a better sweeper in terms of sweeping away the opponent. Yes, Manuel Neuer saved us in some situations, such as an outfield player would do. But he threw caution to the wind.

“Twice he was lucky that he met the ball at exactly the right time for the attack. If he would have come in too late, he could have been sent off.  With all due praise for his great performance

“I would prefer that he remains in goal against France. If Mats Hummels is fit again, the defence is also more stable.”

Der Kaiser, who was a World Cup winner as a player in 1974 and also led West Germany to victory in 1990 as head coach, also dismissed criticism of Joachim Low’s tactics, especially with regards to his decision to play Philipp Lahm in midfield.

“We should be glad that we have such a flexible player like Philipp Lahm,” he continued.

“There is no one like him out there. He fully convinced me against Algeria in the midfield. One thing is clear though; without Lahm at the back there is more pressure on the right wing.

“Jogi Low should not be talking to others outside the camp. I have never read a DFB team manager during a World Cup listening to a newspaper or taking tips from outside. ”

Germany now face France in the quarter-finals in Rio on Friday and Beckenbauer is adamant that they will not underestimate their opponents as they may have done with Algeria and the United States.

“France are our strongest World Cup opponents [so far],” the German added.

“Coach Didier Deschamps has turned a fractious bunch into a confident force. Even though it sounds paradoxical, against the French we will play more easily.

“Subconsciously, we have underestimated the United States and Algeria. That will not happen against the French.”