Tenacious customer

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, one and two from front to rear, have their work cut out as strikers, especially in the absence of midfield giants such as Michael Ballack and Simon Rolfes, who provided them the ammunition for firing.-AP

Germany, of late, has been riddled with problems. If the suicide of their first-choice goalkeeper, Robert Enke, last year was a severe blow, the Germans have suffered many other setbacks due to injuries thereafter. They will now miss the services of their talismanic skipper, Michael Ballack, holding midfielder Simon Rolfes and veteran defender Heiko Westermann.

In terms of both pedigree and achievement, Germany stands tall in world football. Perhaps not as blessed with top tier talent as some others, Germany makes up for it with the fitness of its players, motivation, discipline and, more than anything else, an organised approach.

Winner of the World Cup thrice, in 1954, 1974 and 1990 (only Brazil and Italy have won more titles), Germany has figured in seven title-round clashes, sharing this record with Brazil. The Germans, for the record, have also never failed to advance from the group phase.

The Germans dominated Group 4 of the European qualifiers and emerged with a clean slate against Russia, Wales, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein. Only Finland proved to be a headache, drawing both its matches against the well-oiled Germans. In South Africa, the Germans have a comparatively tougher opposition, being drawn alongside Ghana, Serbia and Australia in Group D, but should still pass the test with flying colours.

Unfortunately, Germany, of late, has been riddled with problems. If the suicide of their first-choice goalkeeper, Robert Enke, last year was a severe blow, the Germans have suffered many other setbacks due to injuries thereafter. They will now miss the services of their talismanic skipper, Michael Ballack, holding midfielder Simon Rolfes and veteran defender Heiko Westermann.

The absence of Ballack and Rolfes in the engine room in the middle is certain to leave the Germans without experience and a considerable lack of creativity. This is sure to cause problems for the striking pair of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, who are used to killer passes from the injured duo over the last several years. The strikers now have the onerous task of maintaining their strike-rate, despite the diminished support from midfield. The task of filling the void in the middle is now likely to fall on Bastian Schweinsteiger, moving up from his position in the centre, and young Mesut Czil, though it will be tough to find an immediate replacement for Westermann. That would also make the job of the new German skipper, Philipp Lahm, tough in holding the defence together, especially against the big teams.

However, what still provides room for cautious optimism among their fans is the strong resolve that the Germans have shown in fighting against the odds. Indeed, a strong psyche has always been the hallmark of Teamgiest and the string of impediments now being faced by the side should only double the tenacity of its players.

It is only natural that the focus will also be on coach Joachim Loew, whose tactical approach and calm nature have been hailed in many quarters. The former leading scorer for SC Freiburg, Loew, who was assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann in 2006, proved his mettle by taking Germany to the final of Euro 2008 before losing a narrow final to Spain.

THE TEAM GOALKEEPERS

Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen) and Hans-Jorg Butt (Bayern Munich).

DEFENDERS

Dennis Aogo (Hamburg), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Jerome Boateng (Hamburg), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Marcell Jansen (Hamburg), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Metesacker (Werder Bremen) and Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart).

MIDFIELDERS

Sami Khedira (Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Ozil (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich) and Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg).

FORWARDS

Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) and Lukas Podolski (Cologne).

Coach: Joachim Loew