Team manager Oliver Bierhoff admitted Thursday Germany's young guns have shocked their coaches by brushing off the loss of senior players to reach the last eight of the FIFA World Cup™. Germany coach Joachim Low has brought an exceptionally young squad to South Africa with an average age of just under 25, but they take on Argentina in Cape Town on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals.
Low's FIFA World Cup preparations were hit by a succession of injuries as key players - including captain Michael Ballack - were ruled out with injuries. Chelsea star Ballack succumbed to a an ankle injury, while first-choice goalkeeper Rene Adler and defender Heiko Westermann were also ruled out. Midfielder Christian Traesch also fell to an ankle injury, while Simon Rolfes' knee injury in January meant he was never in contention.
But Bierhoff says the current crop of young players including Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng have graduated from the Under-21 team to seize their chances with the seniors. "This is a very young team and one that didn't even play that many games together in the qualification rounds," said Bierhoff.
"We are suprised - and proud - by how far we have come. We knew how good this team was, but there were fears that by losing guys like Ballack and Adler, Westermann and Traesch, we would miss their leadership. But the team them has pulled together and morale is high and the team are playing with flair."
Germany beat Argentina 4-2 on penalties in the quarter-finals at the last FIFA World Cup four years ago to reach the semi-finals where they finished third. It remains to be seen how the young German team cope with the pressure of playing in a FIFA World Cup quarter-final against the strong Argentinians, but captain Lahm is backing his side.
Lahm says the Germans have the ability to cope with the pressure of the knock-out stages which comes from an early age and is part of the German Football Federation's development programme. "The mentality thing and the ability to cope with pressure comes at a very young age in Germany," said Lahm.
"Even when players are just 13, they learn to deal with pressure and cope with difficult situations. At the big name clubs, players are blooded and that gives them the right kind of mental strength which helps them cope with real pressure."