finding the right blend
After the satisfaction of qualifying for Portugal had passed,
German thoughts turned back to four years ago. A wretched
performance left them last in EURO 2000 Group A and the
closing 3-0 defeat by Portugal marked a low point for Erich
Ribbeck's side. This time round, they may have qualified
unbeaten but defeats in 2003 against France, Italy and Spain
show there remains room for improvement.
03 February 2004
reaching the 2002 World Cup final it is with a necessary
mixture of optimism and realism that Rudi Völler and his team
are preparing to face Group D rivals Czech Republic, Latvia
and the Netherlands in June. "It was clear that the group
including the Netherlands would be the strongest," he
said. "But this is no reason to complain as the sides at
any EURO are more difficult than in a World Cup. We go to
Portugal with confidence."
Germany have plenty of options in attack with several talented
players in contention for a starting place. Völler's most
important decision will probably concern which forwards he
selects and in which formation. During their qualifying
campaign Germany used both a 3-5-2 system and a more
The strikers are expected to be Kevin Kuranyi and the
experienced Fredi Bobic. But the coach could also decide to
use winger Oliver Neuville or Miroslav Klose, and 1860 München's
Benny Lauth has also come into contention.
Bobic is currently having a hard time with struggling Hertha
Berlin but Stuttgart's Kuranyi has gained Champions League
experience this season, and along with club-mate and defender
Andreas Hinkel he represents a generation of promising
youngsters including Arne Friedrich, Tobias Rau, Paul Freier,
Daniel Bierofka, Fabian Ernst, Christian Rahn and Lauth. Völler
is certain these players "will improve further"
before the summer.
At the back, Christian Wörns remains the linchpin. Frank
Baumann is also reliable in the centre and the return of Jens
Nowotny has given Völler another option. Hinkel and Friedrich
compete on the right while Rau and Rahn are two candidates for
the opposite flank.
In midfield, Michael Ballack is Völler's playmaker together
with the equally creative Dietmar Hamann, Bernd Schneider and
Torsten Frings. Carsten Ramelow acts as the anchor with
Sebastian Kehl as back-up. Sebastian Deisler may also come
into contention if he can rediscover his mental strength.
With captain Oliver Kahn in goal, Germany have an experienced
spine of Kahn, Nowotny, Wörns and Bobic. Whether this
provides the rest of the group with the necessary maturity
will become clearer after the upcoming friendlies against
Croatia, Belgium and Romania. But Völler says EURO 2000 will
not be repeated. "We can challenge any opponent and we
will put up a good performance," Völler said. "I
promise." - By Manfred