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German coach regards Russia as European champions Spain
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German national soccer team coach Joachim Loew said on Wednesday that he regards Russia, Germany's top rival at the World Cup qualifying round, as Euro Champions Spain.

"I have rarely seen a team that can change its pace so rapidly. They are incredibly strong in playing forward," Loew told the press at the interval of Germany's training sessions.

Germany is to face Russia in Dortmund on Saturday and Wales, another rival in Group 4, in Moenchengladbach four days later.

Loew, 48, said he had plenty of respect for the Euro semi- finalists Russia.

The coach was keeping his starting line-up for the clash with Russia close to his chest, and even captain Michael Ballack, who has returned from injury, and goalkeeper Robert Enke are not certain that they will be starting in the group 4 game.

Loew said he wanted to see the players in action during training.

"I want to see that each player is fully prepared mentally and physically for this game, otherwise they will not," he said.

Although he does not believe that the game against the Russians will be decisive as to which team tops the group and advances automatically to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, he says it is very important.

"Whoever does not drop points against the so-called smaller teams has an advantage," said Loew.

Having drawn 3-3 in Finland in their last game, Germany is under pressure to do well against Russia and Wales.

Loew said the team could not afford to field players who are not mentally or physically fit.

"Only players who are able to give 100 per cent will start the match," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2008)

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