Population: 82,400,000
Area: 357,021 km²
Capital: Berlin
Language: German

Germany qualified automatically as host nation.

Mar 01 Italy v Germany 4-1
Mar 22 Germany v USA 4-1
May 27 Germany v Luxembourg 7-0
May 30 Germany v Japan 2-2
Jun 02 Germany v Colombia 3-0

Participations: (15) 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002
Best placing: Winners 1954, 1974 and 1990
Topscorer: Gerd Müller, 14 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 09 - GER v CRC  in Munich
Jun 14 - GER v POL  in Dortmund
Jun 20 - GER v ECU  in Berlin

- Germany in Group A -
Jan Alsos: 1st place
Pierre Boisrond: 1st place
Ruud Doevendans: 1st place
Mike Gibbons: 1st place
Peter Goldstein: 1st place *
Paul Marcuccitti: 1st place
Felipe Santos: 1st place
* World Cup winners


by Jan Alsos

    There is a lot of uncertainty connected to the German team this year. People in the host country are not quite sure about their own team's strength as kick-off time World Cup 2006 beckons. Impressive stadiums are built and ready, everything else in terms of infrastructure also looks to be in place. Now it's up to the heroes in black and white to deliver. The Nationalmannschaft has produced very inconsistent results lately.

    Coach Jürgen Klinsmann, a World Cup winning hero himself 16 years ago, has been in under much criticism lately. Not only because of some disappointing results - particularly 1-4 against Italy in Florence in early March - but also for his refusal to leave his home in California. All the powerful men in German football have voiced their opinions on this matter and for once they have all been in total agreement; they want to see Klinsmann stationed in his native country and attend Bundesliga matches in person during these important months leading up to the finals.

    Klinsmann's record as German coach since he took over after Rudi Völler following the Euro 2004 fiasco is (as of March 24th): 13 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses - a good record for most teams, but in Germany "good" isn't enough.

    He has been very inconsistent regarding the goalkeeper issue. Last year he fired the popular goalkeeper coach Sepp Maier after the 1974 World Cup winner said that Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich) was a certain starter no matter what Jens Lehmann (Arsenal) did. Klinsmann brought in Andreas Köpke for Maier and since then there has been no given starter in goal for Germany. During the Confederations Cup last summer, when Germany finished third, Klinsmann shifted between Kahn, Lehmann and Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart). In early April, Klinsmann shocked many when he announced that Lehmann would be his first choice, and not Kahn. The hero from 2002 has since accepted to be the back-up solution.

    The two goalkeeping veterans will increase the average age of this team drastically whoever plays Kahn or Lehmann. Unlike most other German World Cup squads in recent memory, the 2006 squad will contain hardly any outfield players over 30. In the starting line-up a large bulk might even be under 25.

    Finding the right players in defence has been a major issue for Klinsi. The problem on the two centerback positions is critical. Jens Nowotny (Bayer Leverkusen) could miss yet another World Cup through injury and Christian Wörns (Borussia Dortmund) is not wanted by Klinsmann. A number of options have been tried with the remaining youngsters available for selection. Robert Huth (Chelsea) is a crowd favourite in Germany, but doesn't seem to be the reliable rock that the team needs. He doesn't play much at club level either which of course is an obstacle.

    The two towers Per Mertesacker (Hannover) and Christoph Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund) might occupy the central positions in the end with Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin) on right- back and Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich) on left-back - both good on the ball going forward. Marcell Jansen (B.Mönchengladbach) and the more experienced Patrick Owomoyela (Werder Bremen) are good back-up solutions on the sides in defence.

    In midfield, which seems to be the team's strongest department, there is one obvious leader: Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich), the Spielführer. One of the best and most complete midfielders in the world. His only obvious weakness is his temperament. He receives way too many bookings - one of them cost him an appearance in the World Cup Final of 2002. He recently scored his 30th international goal against USA in Dortmund and will be dangerous in front of goal this summer as well with his deep runs into the box.

    Another strong name in midfield is Ballack's energetic colleague from Bayern Munich, Bastian Schweinsteiger, already 25 caps under his belt at 21 years of age. He should have been accompanied by set-piece expert Sebastian Deisler (Bayern Munich), but he suffered a knee-injury recently and will unfortunately enough miss another World Cup. That is a major blow for Germany whose game depends much on efficiency from corners and free-kicks from the sides where Deisler would have been the provider. Instead Klinsmann might turn to players from free-scoring Werder Bremen, Tim Borowski and Torsten Frings, to fill roles in midfield. Both are highly competent players. In addition there is always Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen) or Fabian Ernst (Schalke 04).

    Klinsmann has tried many constellations in attack, like central defence, it's another problem area. 20-year-old Lukas Podolski played very well against top opposition in the Confederations Cup last summer, but has had a rather poor season in the 1.Bundesliga with newly promoted FC Cologne. Some people question whether he can carry the burden of being the main frontman at a World Cup. Miroslav Klose recently suffered a 15 month long (8 matches) goaldrought for Germany, but his goal against USA cured that. He has enjoyed a fantastic season for Werder Bremen goal-wise and looks to be a starter in the World Cup like he was four years ago.

    Another option up front could be Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04) who is a hardworking player, but not much of a goalscorer. Neither is Oliver Neuville (B.Mönchengladbach) who was closer to the starting line-up four years ago, but Kevin Kuranyi (Schalke 04) can come in and fill both roles if required. Klinsmann does have a wide variety of strikers, but is still looking for the best working pair.

    All in all, this German team has a lot to prove. It has been over five years since they last beat any of the "big" nations - England by 1-0 in the very last match to be played at old Wembley in October 2000. The general public in Germany is supportive but cautious in its predictions. Few people expect Klinsmann's men to win the World Cup - which was achieved in 1974 the last time (West) Germany hosted - but anything less than a semifinal will be considered a failure. A country that has reached the Final on no less than seven occasions should have high ambitions with the tournament being held on home soil.

    Germany are grouped with Poland, Ecuador and Costa Rica in the first round. Klinsmann said of the draw: "It was kind to us, and we're happy." In the second round, assuming Germany advance, they will face a team from Group B - England, Sweden, Paraguay or Trinidad & Tobago. The route to the last eight could have been worse.

    Keep in mind the host country factor and Germany's traditions in the tournament over the years, one thing seems to be sure: Klinsmann's men in the World Cup will be a tough nut to crack for any team.




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