The Worlds Favourite Playground

Saturday, Feb 27th

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Former Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski ended his long international football career in a fine style, scoring a tremendous goal to lead Germany to a 1-0 victory over England in a friendly here.

The 31-year-old on Wednesday boosted his goal tally for Germany to 49 in 131 matches, including the side's triumphant 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign.

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A friendly against old rivals England will give forward Lukas Podolski a perfect farewell from the German football team. After three World Cups and four European Championship participations, the 31-year-old will appear in a German shirt for the 130th and last time in Dortmund on Wednesday evening.

Poland-born Podolski might not have been one of Germany's top stars but was basically ever-present since first being called up for international duty in June 2004. In his 13-year career, Podolski has won the third most caps for his country and his 48 goals put him third in the goal-scoring list behind Miroslav Klose (71) and Gerd Mueller (68).

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German head coach Joachim Loew has demanded radical changes to the country's youth coaching programme.

"We've got to improve the cognitive aspects. As for the physical aspects, we've reached the limits in football. But when it comes to the cognitive part there's still a lot of room for improvement," said the 57-year-old in an interview on Wednesday.

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England defeated Scotland 3-0 in the fourth round of the European qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup even as France had to come from behind to secure a 2-1 win over Sweden. Defending champions Germany, meanwhile, pummeled San Marino 8-0 on Friday to remain perfect in the competition.

The English prevailed at Wembley through goals by Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill to claim the top spot in Group F with 10 points, two ahead of Slovenia, who eked out a 1-0 win away at Malta. Slovakia vaulted over Lithuania into third place in the group with a 4-0 defeat of the Baltic side, who have five points.

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Germany's next 2018 World Cup qualifier against San Marino this Friday evening might not be an important game for coach Joachim Loew and many of his players as the 2014 World Champions are the big favourite against the minnows. In the case of Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City) though, things are different. The 26-year-old midfielder, who was transferred to the Premier League club for 27 million euro, is the man to watch at present in the German squad.

The player with Turkish roots is set to replace Sami Khedira (Juventus) alongside Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) in Germany's midfield engine room. German football fans are rubbing their eyes in disbelief when watching a man that seems to be revealing previously unknown talents. Since leaving Borussia Dortmund last summer for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, he seems to have gone through a metamorphosis.

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Germany's football coach Joachim Loew has included three youngsters in his 25-men squad for the upcoming international matches.

Loew, on Friday called up three promising players - Bayer Leverkusen's Benjamin Henrichs, Wolfsburg's Yannick Gerhardt and Werder Bremen's Serge Gnarby - for the upcoming games.

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Germany's all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose is set to join coach Joachim Low's staff, the German football association, DFB announced on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old, who has not officially ended his playing career despite not having his contract at Lazio renewed in the summer, will join Low and his coaching team for their upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against San Marino and friendly in Italy.

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