Low laughs off Ballack criticism

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Germany head coach Joachim Low is smiling in the face of criticism from the team's former midfielder Michael Ballack over their performances at Euro 2016.

The world champions opened their Group C campaign with a 2-0 win over Ukraine, despite a less than sparkling showing.

They toiled for large parts of the subsequent 0-0 draw with Poland, with their opponents arguably the better side, but remain in a strong position to qualify ahead of Tuesday's final group fixture against Northern Ireland.

Despite that, Ballack – inspirational in Germany's run to the final of the competition in 2008 – claimed the current crop of players lacked personality and character.

"Things repeat themselves so much," said Low.

"The discussion conjures a smile from me. In 2014 there was the discussion that we have no leading players.

"Then we were world champions and they were suddenly the great leading players. Now we play a 0-0 and have this discussion again. The players have great leadership."

Germany head into Tuesday's meeting with Northern Ireland at the Parc des Princes sitting top of the group, ahead of Poland by virtue of a superior goal difference.

A point will guarantee their place in the second round, but after a rest day on Saturday, Low is targeting victory and top spot, which would see them take on one of the best-third placed teams in the last 16.

"We'd planned to have this day off. It's important to switch off sometimes as well," he added. "It is important that players get away from it completely and clear your head.

"The team is making a good impression in terms of fitness. We want to beat Northern Ireland. They have unbelievable fighting spirit and energy. They cover so much ground."