Germany wait for their 4th WC victory
The squad hopes to bag their fourth World Cup title on home ground.india Updated: May 23, 2006 10:41 IST
Germany will need Michael Ballack to reprise his starring World Cup role from four years ago if Juergen Klinsmann's inexperienced team are to get close to a home triumph and secure the nation's fourth World Cup success.
Klinsmann has worked wonders since taking over running the World Cup hosts from Rudi Voeller after a desperate showing at Euro 2004 but they are under huge pressure from an expectant public who will not tolerate another lame campaign, especially not on home soil.
For many, nothing less than a repeat of the 1974 World Cup triumph in Munich will be enough - but today's Germany do not possess a Franz Beckenbauer, a Sepp Maier or a Gerd Mueller.
If they do lift the World Cup in Berlin on July 9, many people will be forced to eat their words.
For Germany still struggle against top-class opposition - they have not beaten one of the game's leading powers since 2000 - though there was no disgrace in a 3-2 defeat by a strong Brazil in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup last year.
Their performances in that tournament, relying on relentless attack to make up for obvious deficiencies in defence, captured the imagination of the German public.
Klinsmann's mission is to regain that momentum after poor results in friendlies around the turn of the year.
At least the last match, a 4-1 win over the United States in Dortmund on March 22, offered hope for the team and eased the pressure on Klinsmann, who had been under fire for continuing to commute from California instead of moving back to Germany.
"For 20 months we've worked extremely hard," Klinsmann said after that win.
"We have a good team, we're full of energy, we have the crowd behind us and we're playing in our home country."
The draw for the finals was kind to the home nation, who will kick off against Costa Rica in Munich on June 9 before facing Poland and Ecuador.
If they win the group, which does not look beyond them, they may avoid the tournament favourites until the quarterfinals, when Argentina could lie in wait.
Germany have one world-class player in Ballack, who led his country to the final in 2002 only to miss it himself through suspension.
Oliver Kahn, FIFA's best player from the 2002 World Cup, has lost his place to Arsenal's Jens Lehmann, who will have plenty to prove once the tournament starts.
Christoph Metzelder, back after a career-threatening Achilles injury, could be the man to shore up the back line but only if he can forge a better understanding with Per Mertesacker than the two have so far shown.
In Lukas Podolski, Germany have a young forward capable of making the sort of impact England's Wayne Rooney did in Portugal.
Klinsmann has a problem in midfield, though. Against the better sides, Ballack is usually asked to play a deep role that limits his contribution in attack to the odd header from set pieces.
Bayern Munich winger Sebastian Deisler was one of the few German players with the necessary spark of creativity but he will miss the tournament because of injury.
The Germans have reached the World Cup final seven times, winning three times in 1954, 1974 and 1990 and losing four in 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002.