Germany relying on 'insiders'
Germany hopes the advice of three "insiders" will help it snap a 12-year winless streak at the European Championship when it opens against Poland on Sunday. Three German players were born in Poland and team officials made no secret of the fact that they were relying on them to get some inside information _ and not only on the proper pronunciation of Polish names.
Strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, and midfielder Piotr Trochowski are the three naturalized Poles in the German team. "They are the so-called insiders and we may have an advantage because of that," Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick said. A better bet for Germany may be to get goals from both Klose and Podolski, who may get a chance to start, either as a striker or left midfielder. Klose and Podolski started for Germany at the World Cup at home two years ago, but Mario Gomez was the top homegrown striker in the Bundesliga this past season and could be Klose's partner in the attack.
As usual, Germany coach Joachim Loew is letting out little about his intended lineup for the match in Klagenfurt.
Germany is chasing its fourth European title, but it hasn't won a game since 1996, covering two tournaments. That may sound hopeful for Poland, but it has never beaten Germany in 15 tries and has 11 losses.
The last time the two teams met was in the group stage at the World Cup, and Germany won 1-0 on an injury-time goal from substitute Oliver Neuville.
"They were already playing well at the World Cup. They stayed with us for 90 minutes and gave us a lot of trouble at home," Loew said. "And they qualified with ease."
Poland took four points from Portugal in qualifying and won its group. But the Germans too have more experience now and a team that hasn't changed much from two years ago.
"We have gained maturity. We have a very strong team and we work well as a unit," Germany captain Michael Ballack said. "We are burning with desire to go out and win the first game, which is very important for confidence."
Ahead of the game, Ballack was the target of some distasteful reporting by Polish tabloids, one of which had a front page with a doctored photo of his chopped-off head being carried by Poland's Dutch-born coach Leo Beenhakker, who later apologized to the German people and team.
Ballack said he did not like what he saw, adding that such photographs did not belong in football.
"But it won't influence our performance. If anything, it might increase our motivation," the midfielder said.
More than usual German motivation would be a problem for any team, and Poland already has enough trouble without it, with important midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski forced out of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
Motivation doesn't seem to be a problem for Poland either. "I don't have to motivate them," Beenhakker said. "I don't motivate just to motivate, I do it when they need it. And I can tell you that most of them don't need it at all because they are already looking forward more than ever to playing the match on Sunday." Defender Mariusz Jop said his team was stronger mentally than two years ago.
"We have our style of play, and we are going to try to impose how we play, try to play fully up to our possibilities and I think if we play like we did against Portugal we have a big chance of winning," Jop said.
Goalkeeper Artur Boruc said the loss two years ago still hurt. "Can we talk about revenge? A little, yeah," Boruc said. "The painful defeat two years ago has stuck in our memory a bit."