Off to Gdansk: German national team face further EURO participation

As if the final result of the 2010 FIFA World Cup needed confirming on the European stage one year later, the three top teams from South Africa are marching in step towards the next major event. World Cup champions Spain, runners-up Netherlands and bronze medallists Germany are the best performing teams prior to the last rounds of the 2010-11 season’s qualifying matches for the 2012 UEFA European Championship. The Netherlands have gained the maximum 18 points from six matches; the Spaniards, who also won the 2008 European title by beating Germany in Vienna, have achieved 15 points from five matches, as have Germany. All other teams did not escape unscathed on the road to the European Championship finals in Poland and the Ukraine, among them Italy, France, England and Portugal.

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Bastian Schweinsteiger counters Jorge Fusile -- a duel in the 2010 World Cup bronze medal match. Germany and Uruguay will meet again on May 29. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


The German team hope to distinguish themselves as Europe’s top team on points from the double round on June 3 and 7. While the selection of the German Football Association, DFB, will meet Austria in Vienna (Friday, 20:30 hrs, live on ARD) and Azerbaijan in Baku (Tuesday, 19:00 hrs, live on ARD), the Spaniards and the Dutch have already concluded their international season. German national coach Joachim Loew has confidently expressed his aim for both encounters: the lead in Group B should be extended to 21 points with two wins, and consequently six points, against Austria, fighting for their last chance to participate in the European Championship, and against Azerbaijan, where coach Berti Vogts is planning a second coup after defeating Turkey. If the match between Belgium and Turkey ends in a draw, the German team will have at least ascertained participation in the relegation matches for group runners-up.

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Joachim Loew and Juergen Klinsmann started their jobs with the German Football Association against Austria in Vienna in August 2004. Loew will return there on June 3. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


No one within the DFB would be content with that, however. “Of course we want to win the group”, said captain Philipp Lahm after the first five victories. The German team saved their least convincing performances since the 2010 World Cup finals for international friendlies, failing to win a single match (against Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Australia). As early as the first round of the 2011-12 season, on September 2 against Austria in Gelsenkirchen, they could ensure participation in the European Championship with a victory. But before that date Loew’s “boy group” will play two friendlies -- against Uruguay on May 29 at Sinsheim, staging its first ever men’s international (Sunday, 20:00 hrs, live on ZDF) and against Brazil in Stuttgart on August 10. Germany defeated Uruguay 3-2 in the bronze medal match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on July 8, 2010. This time the encounter against the South Americans should be an ideal prelim to the qualifiers in Austria and Azerbaijan.

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Rhein Neckar Arena at Sinsheim will stage its first men’s international game on May 29. The German women’s World Cup champions have already played there. (Photo: Kunz/Augenklick)

 


Until then Loew and his players have to bridge a very long period, as the Bundesliga season ends on May 14 and only goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is still involved in the DFB Cup final with Schalke 04, against MSV Duisburg (May 21). All the internationals players must put holidays on hold to prepare for the very late European qualifiers. In other countries, for example Spain and Netherlands, no dates for the national teams have been scheduled for such an advanced point in time.

DFB team suffers setback in world rankings

The DFB is already planning their participation at the 2012 European Championship in detail. A location has already been chosen for June next year, Gdansk on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Even if the draw of the European Championship groups in Kiev in November result in the German team playing the preliminary round only in the Ukraine, this location will be retained. “The climate there is excellent. Gdansk is right on the Baltic Sea, the breeze keeps your head clear. That’s important when we are together for such a long time. Spirit and soul must be also in harmony with each other”, Loew said. “A definitive decision has not yet been made. There are several options”, said Harald Stenger, spokesman for the national team. Other teams are said to be considering the same hotel. But hardly any other team will qualify as quickly as the DFB selection and can consequently make a definitive decision early. Unless Poland, automatically qualified as co-hosts of the European Championship, demand the same hotel. The small but noble house could hardly refuse its own countrymen their accommodation in favour of the Germans.

Though the Loew team are positioned well in Europe, they had lost one position in the world rankings by the end of April. They dropped from third to fourth place with 1,386 points, due to their weak results in the international friendly matches. Brazil advanced to third place (1,425), behind Spain (1,857) and the Netherlands (1,702). Argentina hold fifth place (1,276) followed by England (1,163), Uruguay (1,094), Portugal (1,052), Italy (1,019), returning to the top ten, and Croatia (991). France have plummeted to 19th position, the worst ever for the former world ranking leader (in 2001) and 1998 World Cup and 2000 European champions. But the example of Germany proves that the road can lead upwards again. The DFB team were ranked 22nd in March 2006, the worst position since the introduction of the world rankings in 1991, which the Germans then topped for a long time as the 1990 World Cup champions.