sport

Howedes ready for Messi

Germany's 'weak link' Benedikt Howedes says he is ready to keep Lionel Messi quiet in Sunday's World Cup final.

The Schalke defender - usually a centre-half - has forced his way into Joachim Low's starting XI line-up as a makeshift left-back.

He had another fine game in the 7-1 demolition of Brazil on Tuesday and looks set to play in the Maracana Stadium on Sunday against Messi and Argentina.

But his former boss at Schalke, Felix Magath, wrote in a newspaper column: "A weak point... remains Benedikt Howedes as a wing-back."

Humble Howedes shrugged off the criticism, and says he does not pretend to be a natural wing-back.

"I am no Roberto Carlos, who was fantastic at putting in free-kicks and crosses, so I know I am not like him," said Howedes.

"But there is only one more match where I need to be good, critics and former coaches can judge me to be the 'weak link', but that leaves me cold.

"I just worry about what the national coach thinks and the feedback he gives me, anything else I just shrug off.

"I just listened to Low's opinion, it took me a while to come back to elite football after injury last season, I just tried to offer as much as I could at the camps.

"But the fact that I have played the full 90 minutes of all the World Cup matches is fantastic.

"I can barely grasp it myself, but what is important now is to take the last step and crown our performances by winning the title."

Howedes says Germany are approaching the task of keeping Messi at bay in the same way as they did when they faced Cristiano Ronaldo - the Germans beat Portugal 4-0 earlier in the tournament.

"Messi is one of the best players in the world, but just as I said before the Portugal game when we faced Ronaldo, we have to defend as a team," he said.

"We have to stifle his opportunities to score goal and create dangerous situations.

"Many people are giving us slaps on the back and we love the compliments, but we can't make the mistake that it's already over, far off it.

"People are saying in Germany that the title is almost in our pocket, but the Argentinians will fight to take the title home.

"We'll have to do all we can to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We also know the time is ripe now, if we don't (win it), the semi-final victory will just be consigned to the archives of history."