Soccer-Loew says Latin American passion has hastened European exits

By Erik Kirschbaum

SANTO ANDRE, Brazil, June 28 (Reuters) - Latin American teams have been highly motivated in their home region and have coped better with the heat and humidity, helping explain why so many European teams were knocked out at the World Cup's group stage, Germany coach Joachim Loew said on Saturday.

"The South American teams are obviously at home on their own continent and the Central American teams are also keen to prove to the world the great class they have and how strong they are," Loew said.

"You get the feeling in some of the matches that they're playing for their lives," he said. "Maybe that's part of the reason that surprisingly there are so few European teams left."

Germany are seeking to become the first European team to win a World Cup in Latin America. This is the seventh World Cup to be held in the region.

Loew said his team put an emphasis on adapting to local conditions and preparing for opponents from the Americas who are - as he predicted - playing out of their minds.

"It's surprising that so many European teams aren't here anymore," said Loew. "Great soccer nations like Spain, Italy, Portugal, England are all out - I can't ever recall so many favourites from Europe going home after the group phase."

Loew and his coaches have been warning their players - and journalists - for months that the conditions in Brazil would pose numerous special challenges for European teams and that it's not surprising no European team has ever won a title here.

"It was clear that the South Americans were going to be extremely motivated for this World Cup on their home continent," he said. "Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil - they've been getting ready for this for many, many years."

With typical German thoroughness, Loew put his team's base in a secluded resort on the Atlantic coast in the middle of the tropical heat that is also within an hour or two's flight to many match locations - to try to minimise travelling ordeals and get accustomed to the heat.

He also paid great attention to details - such as making sure the grass on the training pitch was from South America, and all training sessions have been held in the midday heat.

"It seems the South American teams have an easier time with the external conditions here - playing in heat and in the afternoons at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m.," he said.

"The South Americans are more used to these conditions."

But Loew said that is no excuse for the Europeans, Germany included. He said he would like to see a more detailed analysis after the tournament about why European teams as a whole have fared poorly so far.

"We've made it through," he said. "We've adapted well to the heat. We don't want to make an issue out of it. We said it's going to be hot and humid, a lot of sunshine, pitches that are dried out and hard. There's no use complaining about it. That's the way it is. Accept the conditions, don't lament about them." (Editing by Nigel Hunt)