World Cup 2018: 4 days to go

Low pleads for more support

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Maiouf scrambling to keep the ball away from Ilkay Gundogan. The German, who has Turkish parents, referred to Turkey President Recep Erdogan in a message as "My President".
Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Maiouf scrambling to keep the ball away from Ilkay Gundogan. The German, who has Turkish parents, referred to Turkey President Recep Erdogan in a message as "My President".PHOTO: REUTERS

German asks fans to let Gundogan off after substitute was booed again in friendly victory

MUNICH • Germany coach Joachim Low has called for an end to the heckling of Ilkay Gundogan and for fans to unite behind him, after the midfielder was booed during the 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia on Friday.

Low was frustrated as substitute Gundogan's every touch was jeered for the second game in a row.

German fans are angry over a picture Gundogan - who has Turkish parents - took with Turkey president Recep Erdogan last month, addressing him in a message as "My President".

"First of all, having a national player booed like that helps nobody. I ask you - what should Ilkay do now?" said Low, whose side begin their World Cup defence against Mexico next Sunday.

"He took a picture, yes, but he made no political statement.

"He spoke about this with the press last week and underlined his support for German values, that he was born here, brought up here, his family and friends are here.

"Everybody must move on from this now."

World champions Germany survived a late scare to see off Saudi Arabia and claim a first victory this year, putting a five-game winless run behind them.

The Germans looked to be heading for a comfortable win as they sought to put their worst run of form for 30 years behind them as Timo Werner opened the scoring and Omar Hawsawi's own goal doubled their lead.

Yet Saudi Arabia, who will also be in Russia, looked particularly dangerous on the counter.

They grabbed a lifeline as skipper Taisir Al-Jassim smashed in the rebound after a Mohammad Al-Sahlawi penalty was saved by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen five minutes from full-time.

But Germany hung on to claim a morale-boosting victory. Low, however, went on to voice his discontent at his side's performance, but was adamant they will be ready when they face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in Group F.

"Today we missed a lot of chances, we were really open in defence and allowed too many counter-attacks from Saudi Arabia. In the end we were lucky to win," the 58-year-old said.

"I'm not worried because I know we're going to keep on improving. When it gets going, we'll be ready. Next week we'll be sharper, more dynamic and have more power."

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer kept a clean sheet in his 45-minute spell in goal in the first half.

"Everything is okay with the foot," said the team captain after only his second game back following eight months sidelined by a fractured foot.

There were also victories for Iran, Croatia and Switzerland, while Poland were held to a 2-2 draw by Chile.

Croatia battled back from an Ismaila Sarr opener to defeat Senegal 2-1 thanks to second-half goals from Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric and Switzerland continued their impressive form with a 2-0 win over Japan.

Iran scored a late winner to defeat Lithuania 1-0, while Poland blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Chile, who like Lithuania, have not qualified for the World Cup Finals beginning on Thursday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 10, 2018, with the headline 'Low pleads for more support'. Print Edition | Subscribe