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World Cup giants Germany land in South Africa

sports Updated: Jun 07, 2010 16:22 IST
AFP
Germany

Germany were the latest World Cup giants to touch down in South Africa for the first World Cup staged on the continent.

The three-time champions landed at Johannesburg international airport on a crisp, clear Monday morning after the first official flight of the national airline in an Airbus A380 jumbo.

"It was a great experience to be on the first A380 flight," coach Joachim Loew told reporters as he and his 23-man squad completed immigration details before heading for a hotel near Pretoria.

"We want to show South Africans from the outset that we are happy to be in their country," added manager and former national team striker Oliver Bierhoff.

Germany finished third behind Italy and France when they hosted the tournament four years ago and were runners-up to Brazil in the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan.

They are traditionally considered title contenders regardless of the state of the national team because of their famed refusal to give up no matter how desperate the situation in a World Cup match.

Hopes of Germany going all the way in the June 11-July 11 tournament did suffer a massive blow last month when midfield conductor and captain Michael Ballack was ruled out after tearing ligaments in the English FA Cup final.

The injury followed a heavy tackle from Germany-born Kevin-Prince Boateng, a member of the Ghana squad that also landed in Johannesburg on Monday and which will contest Group D with Germany, Australia and Serbia.

Defender Philipp Lahm has been elevated to Germany captain with Bayern Munich team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger the new vice-captain of a country that conquered the football world in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

Germany had glamorous company on their flight from Frankfurt in the shape of Shakira, the Colombian megastar who will feature in a pre-tournament concert on Thursday at Orlando Stadium in Soweto township.

Other teams with first-class World Cup pedigree who have already arrived in South Africa are Argentina, England, Netherlands, France and Brazil, with Italy and European champions Spain due later this week.

Ghana have been equally hard hit by injury with midfield dynamo Michael Essien, Ballack's Chelsea team-mate, failing to recover from a knee injury sustained last January while training at the African Nations Cup in Angola.

The Black Stars, runners-up to Egypt in the African tournament despite fielding an injury-ravaged side, are captained by veteran Stephen Appiah and can call on another Italy-based midfielder in Sulley Muntari from Inter Milan.

Another African contender to touch down were Algeria, shock qualifiers after a 24-year absence at the expense of Egypt, who arrived at recently built Durban international airport.

Slovenia, who upset the odds by snatching a ticket to South Africa at the expense of Guus Hiddink-coached Russia, were the fourth country to arrive in South Africa on Monday.

The World Cup kicks off Friday when South Africa face Mexico at 90,000-seat Soccer City stadium on the Johannesburg outskirts, followed a few hours later by another Group A clash between France and Uruguay in Cape Town.