Low targets qualification against Austria

Coach Joachim Loew said today he expects Germany to become the first team to earn their qualification for UEFA EURO 2012 by seeing off neighbours Austria next week. Germany face Austria in Gelsenkirchen on 2 September, then Poland in a friendly four days later in Danzig, and Low will name his squad tomorrow.

As hosts, Poland and the Ukraine have qualified automatically for UEFA EURO 2012 and the Germans can become the first team to join them, if they beat Austria in Group A. Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira is struggling with a groin injury and is doubtful, but after Germany inflicted an impressive 3-2 defeat on Brazil in a friendly on 10 August in Stuttgart, Loew's team are in buoyant mood.

With seven wins from seven qualification games, the Germans can book their EURO 2012 berth with two games left to play, against Belgium and Turkey, if they earn their eighth straight victory in Gelsenkirchen.

Only FIFA World Cup™ finalists, the Netherlands and Spain, also have a 100 per cent record in their qualification groups. "We just need to take the final step," said Low, who led Germany to third at last year's World Cup. "We have earned 21 points in seven qualifying games and we have almost qualified for the European Championship. That wasn't expected straight after the World Cup success."

The loss of Khedira could easily be covered by Low as Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos deputised against Brazil and showed he is a star in the making. Low has already called up goalkeepers Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich, Bremen's Tim Wiese and Hanover's uncapped shot-stopper Ron-Robert Zieler, but he can welcome back some of his World Cup stars.

Chief play-maker Mesut Ozil from Real is expected to be named, having been rested for the Brazil game, while defenders Per Mertesacker of Bremen and Borussia Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer are fit after injury. It remains to be seen whether teenage rising star Mario Goetze, who orchestrated the win over Brazil, will be fit after sitting out training this week with a groin injury at Dortmund.

Certainly the sight of Goetze and Ozil spear-heading Germany's attack would be an interesting prospect. Striker Mario Gomez is also expected to be named in the squad despite the 26-year-old limped out of Bayern Munich's 1-0 win at FC Zurich on Tuesday in their UEFA Champions League qualifier with a strained thigh.