Ger­many

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPASTIMES -

THREE-TIME world cham­pi­ons Ger­many will be on most peo­ple's list of favourites to win the tour­na­ment next year af­ter go­ing through qual­i­fy­ing without de­feat.

The emer­gence of younger play­ers to join ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers such as Michael Bal­lack and Miroslav Klose has given rise to cau­tious op­ti­mism that the na­tional team could go far in South Africa.

Coach Joachim Loew's task will be to find the right blend of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence amid be­lief that there is now more qual­ity in depth than 2006 when Ger­many reached the semis or at Euro 2008 when the Ger­mans again showed tour­na­ment met­tle by reach­ing the fi­nal.

“The ba­sis for a World Cup win is good,” said Loew. “We have shown that we are ca­pa­ble of pulling out ev­ery­thing when it counts.”

Werder Bre­men's Me­sut Ozil has added cre­ativ­ity to mid­field, while oth­ers from the un­der-21 squad – in­clud­ing de­fend­ers Jerome Boateng (SV Ham­burg) and An­dreas Beck – are knock­ing on the door.

Bay­ern's Philipp Lahm is a stand­out in an oth­er­wise solid de­fence in which Per Merte­sacker, Heiko Wester­mann and Arne Friedrich are regulars.

Of the strik­ers, Bay­ern Mu­nich striker Klose is a cer­tainty, as is Cologne's Lukas Podol­ski, while Bay­ern's Mario Gomez - de­spite fail­ing to con­vince in­ter­na­tion­ally so far – should be in the squad.

The Star: Michael Bal­lack, the 33-year-old Chelsea mid­fielder and Ger­many cap­tain of the past five years re­mains the piv­otal fig­ure in the squad as he seeks to bow out in what could be his last in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment with a first ma­jor ti­tle with his coun­try.

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