Defender out of position comfortable facing Messi

  • Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014 5:44 p.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:29 p.m.
AP Photo/Andre Penner
Germany’s Benedikt Hoewedes (4) is usually a center back but has been playing left back.
AP Photo/Andre Penner Germany’s Benedikt Hoewedes (4) is usually a center back but has been playing left back.

PORTO SEGURO, Brazil — For a man about to face one of the game’s most prolific scorers, Benedikt Hoewedes is remarkably calm and composed ahead of the World Cup final.

Even more so considering he’ll be playing out of his usual position.

Hoewedes has been used as left back by Germany coach Joachim Loew during the tournament, and the Schalke defender is likely to be the one assigned to stopping Argentina star Lionel Messi’s runs on the right wing.

“I’ll do my part, but it will be a collective effort. That’s how even a player of such quality can be stopped,” Hoewedes said Thursday.

Hoewedes already has had to deal with another scoring sensation, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. Ronaldo was held scoreless and Germany won its World Cup opener 4-0.

Usually a center back, Hoewedes has defied skeptics with his performances at the tournament.

“Since we are in the final, I must have done something right,” said Hoewedes, one of the three Germany players to have played every minute of the tournament. The other two are goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and captain Philipp Lahm.

The position of left back has been considered the weak link in Germany’s team for years. Loew has tried several players in the position and even complained once that “I can’t cut a left back out of wood,” when none met his standards.

When exactly Loew came up with the idea of using Hoewedes is not clear, but he has been at left back since day one of the tournament.

“I am playing in a position for which I haven’t trained. But I think I am helping the team with my presence,” Hoewedes said.

Germany started the tournament with four center backs in its last line of defense, but Lahm has since returned to right back from the midfield and the defense has gained stability.

Hoewedes has played right back for Germany and Schalke when necessary, but being on the left is a novelty.

“For me, it’s completely crazy what’s going on. I still can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s huge what’s happening to me, and the final will be the highlight. We want the title.”

Hoewedes does not provide much attacking spark on the left flank but says that that’s his not priority anyway.

“It’s not my job to send sensational crosses with my strong left foot,” Hoewedes said.

Loew has praised Hoewedes’ robust performances.

“He’s been very strong in one-on-one situations and has covered a lot of distance,” Loew said. “His strong play in the air has been useful both in the back and in the attack.”

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