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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Joachim Low calls for Germany to unite behind Ilkay Gundogan after boos during Saudi Arabia victory

World champions win 2-1 in Leverkusen against Juan Antonio Pizzi's side in final game before tournament defence in Russia begins

Ilkay Gundogan, centre, did not prove popular with Germany fans when he was brought on by manager Joachim Low, right, during Friday's 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia. Thilo Schmuelgen / Reuters
Ilkay Gundogan, centre, did not prove popular with Germany fans when he was brought on by manager Joachim Low, right, during Friday's 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia. Thilo Schmuelgen / Reuters

Germany manager Joachim Low has called for an end to the heckling of Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as Germany prepare to kick off their World Cup defence in Russia.

Germany defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Leverkusen on Friday night, which brought to an end five matches without a victory - their worst run of form since 1988.

However, despite dominating for most of the game at the BayArena after taking an early lead through Timo Werner, the world champions could have ended up with a draw after Saudi Arabia's late revival.

After Omar Hawsawi's own goal doubled Germany's lead, Taisir Al Jassim set up a nervy final six minutes when he scored from a rebound following a saved penalty.

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The game again saw Gundogan face boos from large sections of the home crowd after coming on as a substitute during the second half.

Some Germany fans clearly remain unimpressed over his decision to pose for a photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to London last month, along with Arsenal's Mesut Ozil - who also has Turkish heritage - and Everton's Turkey forward Cenk Tosun.

Gundogan handed over a City shirt with the message "to my president, with my respects," which led to criticism, including from politicians and DFB (German Football Association) chief Reinhard Grindel.

Low turned to the home fans trying to encourage support for Gundogan when he sent the midfielder on in the 57th minute.

Gundogan, though, was soon jeered when seeing two close-range efforts saved not long after taking to the pitch.

The Germany head coach addressed the issue head-on during a post-match interview with German broadcaster ARD1.

Low called for unity as his squad prepare to jet out to Russia ahead of their tournament opener against Mexico in Moscow on June 17.

"First of all, having a national player booed like that helps nobody. I ask you this - what should Ilkay do now?" Low said. "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."

Low had taken no chances with the fitness of Ozil, who sat out Friday night's match as a precaution because of a left knee problem.

It was, though, at least an improved performance following the loss to Austria in Klagenfurt.

"We will continue to improve and, when the tournament starts, we will be ready," Low said, quoted on www.dfb.de.

"I believe we started well. Our movement was good in the first half. In the second half, we rested on our laurels a bit.

"We missed too many chances and gave too many away. At the end, we even needed a bit of luck.

"Next week, we will go out with a more dynamic and vibrant performance."

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