Germany eager to end curse of third
Updated: 2014-05-27 07:14
By Agence France-Presse in Berlin (China Daily)
Skipper Lahm wants to see side break 24-year Cup title drought
Germany heads to Brazil aiming to end its 24-year wait for a fourth World Cup title with captain Philipp Lahm insisting he is sick of finishing third.
Consecutive semifinal defeats have led to Germany taking bronze at the past two World Cups with Lahm in the side and it is 12 years since the Germans lost the 2002 final to Brazil in Yokohama, Japan.
"I do not want to go out in the semifinals again or visit Brazil just to soak up the sun," said Lahm after a decade in the Germany team.
"I have a clear goal, to achieve the biggest possible success and win the World Cup."
In order to break its duck, improved counter-attack and a tighter defense are the key areas coach Joachim Loew wants to improve.
The squad is packed with attacking potential, but there have been rumors of discontent in the past with disgruntled stars disrupting the squad's harmony from the bench at the 2012 European Championships and in the World Cup qualifiers.
"We have the necessary punch to win the title, but we must be sure that the talent and ego of every individual provides only for the team's benefit," said Lahm, with team building also a priority in its south Tirol camp.
The 24-year wait for a fourth World Cup title is Germany's longest since first winning the global crown in 1954.
Younger members of the squad, including midfield star Mario Goetze, were yet to be born when West Germany won Italia 1990-the last time it was world champion.
In the past, Loew's strength has been to instill impressive cohesion into his side by hours of drilling. But injuries and the lack of fitness of his first-choice stars could hamper the process.
"We need to work on our flexibility and variation," said the 54-year-old.
"You always need a 'what-if' strategy during matches, but we also need to improve our counter-attacking when we have won the ball back.
"We haven't done that as consistently well as we did at the South African World Cup and immediately after."
Germany has made a habit of suffering from injuries going into World Cup campaigns.
In 2006, captain Michael Ballack was nursing a calf injury while current skipper Lahm needed elbow surgery.
In 2010, Chelsea's Ballack was ruled out by a nasty tackle in the FA Cup final from Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng while first-choice goalkeeper Rene Adler was sidelined with broken ribs.
In Ballack's absence, Lahm took over and has been Germany's captain ever since while Manuel Neuer has cemented his place between the posts and is widely regarded as one of the world's best goalkeepers.
However, four years on and the fault line runs right along the back-bone of Loew's first-choice side.
Lars Bender's withdrawal has removed a defensive midfield option with Loew's first-choice pairing of vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira are lacking fitness after respective knee injuries.
Likewise, Neuer is battling a shoulder injury-never good for a goalkeeper-while Lahm is also being treated intensively for an ankle knock.
Loew does not have the luxury of a settled back four and is also low on options up front with only two recognized strikers in his squad.
Miroslav Klose, who turns 36 next month, has missed large chunks of the season with Lazio, and Hoffenheim's 21-year-old Kevin Volland is inexperienced, but Loew could also convert one of his midfield stars into a 'false nine'.
Traditionally, Germany has boasted strong leaders-characters such as Stefan Effenberg, Ballack or Oliver Kahn.
Lahm and Schweinsteiger have been criticized for their lack of leadership when things go wrong-namely in the Euro 2012 semifinal defeat to Italy and the 2010 World Cup defeat to Spain for a place in the final.
"Germany has a superior team-and that's the problem," according to Ghana midfielder Boateng. "Germany is feeling the pressure to be world champion, but it doesn't have the characters and types of player to deal with that in Brazil, someone like an Effenberg or a Ballack."
(China Daily 05/27/2014 page24)