Germany’s Lahm has confidence in squad

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:56 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG - No Michael Ballack? No problem.

So says Philipp Lahm, the confident defender who inherited the captain’s band from the injured German star several weeks ago.

When Ballack was knocked out of the World Cup with an ankle injury suffered in the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Portsmouth last month, many prognosticators dropped the status of the three-time champions from contenders to pretenders.

According to Lahm, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, he believes this German squad is superior to the one that finished third at the 2006 World Cup, a team led by Ballack.

“I think this is the best German team in which I have played,” said Lahm, whose squad takes on underrated Australians in Durban Sunday. “Everyone is excited and ready to play.”

Lahm’s confidence comes from the up-tempo style manager Joachim Low adopted from the man he replaced at the helm, German icon Jurgen Klinsmann. No longer does Germany play in the robotic fashion that was its trademark for decades, a change Lahm welcomes.

Lahm also is buoyed by the injection of youth in the lineup, a reflection of the youngest German team since 1934. To that end, at least six players on the roster played on the world under-21 championship team of 2009.

“We are a young and hungry team,” Lahm said. “It’s noticeable at every training session the team trains with great enthusiasm and tempo.

“I have no fear at this World Cup. As a captain, I have to be courageous but I also want to be nice off the pitch.

“We can set the world alight but winning the first game is absolutely imperative. Being part of a World Cup is a key event in anyone’s life and we want to hit the ground running.”

The Germans are accustomed to coming out of the gate fast, having won their opening game in the past five World Cups. Pre-tournament wins over Malta and Hungary (3-0) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (3-1) also have fuelled optimism.

But the Socceroos are a dangerous opponent and should not be taken lightly. They are the type of team capable of delivering an upset special.

Should that happen, Lahm might have to eat his words - and some humble pie, too.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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