Fresh from a domestic double-winning campaign with Bayern
Munich, Philipp Lahm has now set his sights on UEFA European
Championship glory with Germany.
"Our target is to reach the final. Once we've managed that, our goal will be to win it," declared Lahm, nicknamed Paolo after his idol and role model Paolo Maldini.
A few days ahead of EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, the 24-year-old former VfB Stuttgart defender spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about Germany's targets at the tournament, their group opponents, and the favourites for the trophy.
FIFA.com: Philipp, UEFA EURO 2008 begins a few days from now. Are you tense, or are you mainly looking forward to the tournament on neighbouring soil?
Philipp Lahm: A sense of anticipation is definitely the main emotion. The longer you spend preparing, the more you just want it to start.
You alternate between left-back and right-back for Bayern. What's your favoured position for the national team?
I regard myself as just a shade stronger on the right, and it looks as though the coach does too. Anyway, that's where I played against Belarus and Serbia.
After Jurgen Klinsmann chose to step down, Joachim Low took the national helm. How has the team changed in the last two years?
There haven't been many changes. Joachim Low was obviously part of the set-up already and did a lot of the work. He's maintained his leadership style, and he's adopted some of Jurgen Klinsmann's motivational practices, so the changes haven't been that big.
How does the team which is currently preparing for EURO 2008 compare with the team which finished third at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™?
The team as a whole has gained experience. A couple of players have broken into the squad and a couple are missing, but the core is the same and has definitely come on.
Germany weren't particularly convincing in their last two warm-up matches against Belarus and Serbia. How would you rate the preparations for the EURO?
We've had an outstanding pre-tournament period. Warm-up matches are never a good benchmark. What matters is being a fit, functioning unit at the right time. You'll see a very different Germany against Poland than against Belarus and Serbia.
Who's really come to the fore within the team since Low finalised the squad?
I don't want to single out individuals. I think every player in the squad knows his job and will give everything to help us succeed.
Are Germany on peak form this close to the EURO?
We have room for improvement, as the last two games indicated, but we're heading in the right direction and we'll peak right on time.
How do Germany compare with the top teams like world champions Italy or FIFA World Cup runners-up France?
There are definitely a couple of nations at the EURO with bigger name stars on the teamsheet, but at the end of the day, how you play as a team makes the difference, and I'd rate us as one of the top teams in that respect.
Germany last won a match at a EURO in 1996. Can you guarantee that will change in Austria and Switzerland?
I can't give guarantees, but I'll give a promise we'll do everything we can to change that.
How would you rate group opponents Austria, Poland and Croatia?
It won't be easy. We've been drawn against Croatia and Poland, who both won their qualifying groups. Poland finished ahead of Portugal in qualifying, and Croatia are the reason England failed to make the tournament in the first place. It would be foolish to underestimate either of them. And any meeting with Austria has very special significance. This is the biggest match of them all for our neighbours. Thirty years after Cordoba, they'd love to hand us another ignominious defeat.
What are Germany's targets for the tournament?
Our target is to reach the final. Once we've managed that, our goal will be to win it.
Who do you rate as favourites for the trophy?
I think the teams who made it to the World Cup semi-finals will be contenders for the trophy here too, although Spain could be in the mix this time as well.