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Wednesday, 2 June 2010






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Tough times for tournament team Germany

The loss of captain Michael Ballack is a blow to their chances of claiming their fourth World Cup crown in South Africa, but Germany have a habit of raising their game for the big tournaments.

Since the 1982 finals in Spain, Germany have the enviable record of reaching at least the quarter-finals at each of the previous seven tournaments.

They were third in 2006 and second in 2002, but take a young side to the Republic who will need to cope with the significant loss of their leader.

Cool under pressure, Germany tend to cope best on the world stage in the cauldron atmosphere of a knock-out match.

They have won all four penalty shoot-outs they have faced at World Cup finals and the last penalty missed by a German player again dates back to 1982 when Uli Stielike’s shot was saved in the semi-finals.

But they are also notoriously slow starters.

Despite being hammered 4-1 in the build-up to the last World Cup and labouring to wins over Costa Rica and Poland in the group stages, they hit form to beat Portugal 3-1 to claim third.

Likewise, they bounced back from a shock defeat group stage defeat to Croatia at Euro 2008 and went on to reach the final.

Without his leader, coach Joachim Loew is taking a relatively inexperienced squad to South Africa and is expecting his more senior players to step up.

He has already been badly effected by injuries with Ballack, fellow midfielder Christian Traesch and defender Heiko Westermann all ruled out of World Cup contention with injuries.

“It is often the case that others step forward when a leading player drops out and this could also be the chance for other players,” said Loew.

“We need a reaction like that ahead of the World Cup.”

Apart from Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Piotr Trochowski, none of his midfielders have more than 10 caps and his three goalkeepers have just eight international appearances between them.

Several players will need to come of age in Group D if Germany are to reach the knock-out phase, none more so than Stuttgart’s Sami Khedira who is Loew’s first choice to replace Ballack alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The coach will not be altering his system following the loss and 23-year-old Khedira is set to step up despite winning just three caps.

``Sami has a great deal of potential and is a player who has already been given a lot of responsibility at Stuttgart,” Loew told Bild having worked extensively with Khedira at Germany’s pre-World Cup training camps.

“He also shows that he has matured.

“I expect other players to take over accordingly.

“You have got to demand that. Bastian Schweinsteiger will have even more responsibility, for example, and also (defender) Philipp Lahm, (striker) Miroslav Klose and (defender) Per Mertesacker have got to exceed themselves.”

Whoever leads the team onto the field will be doing so with the usual expectations of a nation which has won the title three times.

They face a stiff challenge in Group D and Ballack has warned German fans against high expectations.

“After the draw in Cape Town, I said then: people should know that we can lose in the preliminary rounds to any of the other sides,” he told German magazine Stern.

“Australia, Serbia and Ghana are all athletic, tough teams.”

Loew, whose future as head coach will be decided after the World Cup, is also realistic about his side’s chances.

“With Michael out, we are not talking about the World Cup title,” he said.

“We have set ourselves the goal of playing a good World Cup and there is no point in building up the pressure by setting targets.

“Our first stage will be the group phase, which is going to be hard enough.”




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