Somewhere, possibly in his basement, Torsten Frings has his souvenir from the 2006 World Cup — provided the family dog has left some of it.
Frings took home the ball used for the opening game of the World Cup, when Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2.
He was asked Saturday what he'd done with it.
"I don't really know where it is, maybe in the basement. I think it has no air left, I think the dog may have destroyed it. But it's a good question, I'll look when I get back home," Frings said.
Unsurprisingly, when Germany plays Poland on Sunday in Klagenfurt, Frings won't be looking to take the match ball again.
"This time, I'll be happy with three points," he said before the team's departure for neighboring Austria.
Frings was runner-up with Germany at the 2002 World Cup and is considered one of the most important players in the squad. Many consider his absence from the semifinal two years ago as one of the major reasons Germany lost 2-0 to eventual champion Italy.
Frings was suspended by FIFA for appearing to throw a punch at an Argentina player during a melee after Germany eliminated Argentina on penalty kicks.
At 31, Frings is one of Germany's most senior players, with 72 games and 10 goals.
He and captain Michael Ballack play in front of the back four, providing additional insurance. When Ballack roams to the front to help in the attack, Frings stays behind the captain, acting as a "bodyguard."
Frings is one of rare players to have played for several big Germans clubs. From Werder Bremen, he went to Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, where he won the league and the cup, but left after one season to return to Werder.
Last year, he turned down an offer from Juventus and extended his contract with Bremen.
Most of the season, he struggled with knee injuries but returned for the final few games and helped his team finish second to Bayern Munich and secure a direct berth in the Champions League. Frings said he never doubted he would be at the European Championship, provided he overcomes the injury in time. "For me it was always clear I would play and I never trained so hard in my life, I think I'll be fit at the right time. I know I belong in the starting 11," he said.
Frings firmly believes Germany is better than two years ago. "We have more experience, we really work well as a unit," he said.
With his tattoo-covered body and long hair, the robust midfielder can be an intimidating presence on the field. The image is enhanced
by a Gothic-looking Web page (www.torsten-frings.de). At home, the father of two daughters is an animal lover, with cats and a pony providing company for the dog.