The Germany squad received a rousing reception after arriving in Johannesburg for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ yesterday.
"What a magnificent way to be greeted, full of joy and passion," enthused coach Joachim Low. "It's shown us straight away how much South Africa is looking forward to the World Cup."
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm are being billed as the leading personalities in the youngest German FIFA World Cup squad for 76 years. While on the flight from Frankfurt, the players received a boost from an unexpected but welcome source: Colombian superstar Shakira was also on the plane and wished the team good luck over the aircraft’s public address system.
Our generation is ready now. We won't have the best individuals in South Africa, but we do have a very good team.
After landing, and prior to boarding the team bus for the 60km transfer to the team base north of Johannesburg, Low and his men had another pleasant surprise. Some 40 kids from the German School in Pretoria – clad in national team kit, waving Germany flags and blowing enthusiastically on vuvuzelas –gave the team a warm and rousing welcome. "My lads have been given until 11 o’clock off school especially for this,” explained Knud Stoekius, coach of the school football team.
After a third-placed finish at the 2006 FIFA World Cup on home soil, and the runners-up spot at UEFA EURO 2008, Germany’s aim is to go one better and win the most prestigious prize in world football at the first global finals in Africa. Regulars Michael Ballack, Rene Adler, Simon Rolfes and Heiko Westermann are all missing through injury, but Low remains confident.
"We have a good team with enormous reserves of desire, and the mood’s good," he said. "Everyone’s totally committed in training, so I’m convinced we can do well at the tournament. I have total faith."
Lahm, who will stand in for Ballack as team captain and becomes Germany’s youngest-ever FIFA World Cup skipper at the age of 26, mirrored his coach's optimism. "Our generation is ready now,” he declared. "We won't have the best individuals in South Africa, but we do have a very good team."
Germany open their Group D campaign against Australia in Durban on 13 June, before travelling to Port Elizabeth five days later to face Serbia. Low's side will then take on Ghana in Johannesburg on 23 June.