I think this World Cup will be one of the most exciting ever. For the first time it is being staged in Africa, and I feel that although South Africa may be the weakest team there is enough quality in the other five African sides to see one reach the semis. South Africa will add colour, excitement and passion.
The loss of captain Michael Ballack was a blow for Germany because he is a huge personality in the team. In Philipp Lahm we have another leader who has excellent communication skills that will be important, and he is also highly respected by the other players. It is often the case that when an important player is missing others step up and fill the space, and I expect this to happen in South Africa. Michael will be missed but the team will come closer and remain strong. The loss of other players is less important to the team with Neuer, for example, an adequate replacement for goalkeeper Adler.
Joachim Loew the coach of Germany knows his squad and he will be banking on strong mentality and teamwork —Germany cannot be ruled out as potential winners. Incidentally we have never lost a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup. German teams are always well-organised, disciplined and difficult to defeat. In the European Championships two years ago we finished second, were third in the 2006 World Cup and second in 2002. In addition we showed in the qualifiers, when coming from behind three times against Finland, that this team has character. Germany’s tradition in the World Cup is important — only Brazil and Italy have won the tournament more than us. In this World Cup I expect a few surprises. It will be interesting to see how teams adapt to the African conditions, and I feel there may be some shock results.