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Soccer-Winning ugly better than not winning at all, says Matthaeus

Reuters

By Mike Collett

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 5 (Reuters) - Winning "ugly and dirty" matches when you have to is just as vital as crowd-pleasing victories along the way to World Cup success, said Lothar Matthaeus, who skippered the last German team to win the tournament in 1990.

Matthaeus, Germany's most capped player who made 150 appearances for his country, believes Joachim Loew's side have proved themselves already by reaching a record fourth successive semi-final, and he now expects them to play even better when they face Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

After beating Portugal 4-0 in their opening group match he admitted Germany's other performances in the World Cup so far had not been as attractive as they played in the last World Cup in 2010 when they failed at the semi-final stage.

"If you want to become world champions you have to win matches, but sometimes you have to win ugly matches, sometimes you need dirty victories, it's all part of it," Matthaeus told a FIFA briefing on Saturday, a day after Germany beat France 1-0 in a scrappy quarter-final.

"We have been spoilt a bit over the last eight years by the German team playing technically clean football, the kind of style you don't expect from Germany.

"It's had a positive effect on Germany but before the World Cup the coach came back to four defenders without a proper number nine and we have made other changes and although it might not be the beautiful football we played in 2010, the victory is what is all important now."

BETTER DEFENCE

Matthaeus believes Germany, who will be appearing in their 13th semi-final in all, are more defensively assured than they were four years ago in South Africa and that could prove to be the difference.

A real indication in the change was in beating France when, after taking an early lead, they stifled the French and won the match without creating a great deal of chances of their own.

"We have a saying in Germany that the defence wins titles and the attackers get all the glory," he said.

He also thought they would play with more style and panache against Brazil.

"I do expect even more from them. We played well against France but the real face of the German team will show itself against Brazil and possibly in the final."

Brazil will be without the injured star player Neymar after he suffered a fractured vertebra against Colombia on Friday and they will also be without suspended captain Thiago Silva.

However, Matthaeus said he was upset Germany would not be facing Neymar.

"No German fan or player is happy about Neymar being injured, the spirit of fair play does not allow for that and we are here to play against the best players in the world and so it is bad that such a good player has been hurt.

"We will face the fact the Brazil still has other excellent players and although you cannot replace Neymar just like that, it will be the team's job to make up for him not being there." (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Justin Palmer)

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