Coach Joachim Low says Germany will win both their opening games on the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ as they begin their campaign at minnows Liechtenstein on Saturday.
Germany, ranked third in the world, expect few problems in Vaduz against the team from the tiny central European state, ranked 130, which is just 160 square kilometres large and has a population of just over 35,000. "We want to win and we will win," said Low, who is without injured midfield veterans Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings at the Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz, which has a 7,000 capacity.
Loew expects things will get tougher for Germany when they play Finland at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium next Wednesday. "Many favourites have been beaten in Helsinki, and we must not fall into that trap," he said.
With only the top team from each of the nine European qualifying groups guaranteed a place in South Africa, Loew says Germany's main threats are Russia and Finland. "Only first place means you qualify as of rights. ," he said. "I do not want to talk Liechtenstein up, but they have only lost by a relatively narrow margin to big teams like England or Spain."
Naturally we want to take our place without the need of a detour, so six points from our first two games would be enormously important
Liechtenstein have leaked 17 goals against Germany in their only two previous meetings. In June 1996, Germany beat them 9-1 in Mannheim, and four years later managed an 8-2 win in Freiburg. But Low warned against expectations of a goal bonanza like the 13-0 victory over San Marino in a UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier two years ago. "Liechtenstein are not on the same level as Luxembourg, Andorra or San Marino, they are stronger," insisted Low.
Although he is missing midfielders Ballack and Frings, plus defenders Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich, Low says he would prefer to take a full-strength side to Vaduz. He said: "The injuries are annoying. They are very important for us and I would rather have them here."
With their main Group 4 rivals Russia and Wales the next two opponents in October's round of matches, Loew fears the EURO 2008 exertions could catch up with his team, who have had little break since reaching June's final. "It concerns me that the national players had such a short break and short preparation time after such a big tournament," he said. "We are missing the basis of six weeks conditioning and there is a danger players will get injured. But we have to get on with the situation."
With Ballack and Frings out, Low is expected to play VfB Stuttgart's Thomas Hitzlsperger and Simon Rolfes as central midfielders, while winger Bastian Schweinsteiger is also an option. In the absence of Ballack, Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose will captain Germany, but it is unclear whether team-mate Lukas Podolski, who has failed to win a regular place in Bayern, will partner him. "Lukas Podolski has a role for me as either a striker or attacking midfielder," said Low, who used the 23-year-old to devastating effect during EURO 2008.
McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor
Austria-France, Argentina-Paraguay and Chile-Brazil are among the matches on the opening round of the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning a fanstastic trip to South Africa 2010.