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Despite injury worries, Germany believes it can knock off England

Striker Cacau has been ruled out of the England game on Sunday, while midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Jerome Boateng appear questionable. Still, Germany are confident they can advance.

Germany coach Joachim Loew in front of a poster of his team

Loew has surrounded himself with plenty of good players

The Germany team suffered a setback ahead of its 2010 FIFA World Cup round-of-16 clash with England in Bloemfontein. Stuttgart striker Cacau strained an abdominal muscle in training on Friday, and is out for Sunday's match.

"This injury will not allow him to play against England," Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff told the website of the German Football Association (DFB). "He picked up the injury in training on Friday. We are working on it so that he would be fit for the next match. We are confident he would be."

Whether there is a next match for Germany will be determined by the outcome of Sunday's clash with England. A key factor may be how well Miroslav Klose, the man expected to return to the starting line-up after serving his red-card suspension, plays in the lone striker role Cacau took up in Wednesday's win over Ghana.

Still up in the air is whether Jerome Boateng will be able to play. The defender, who is on his way to Manchester City after the World Cup in a 12.5-million-euro move, made his starting line-up debut at left back in the Ghana game, but was substituted in the closing stages after straining a calf muscle.

Germany Coach Joachim Loew may call on Boateng's former Hamburg teammate Marcell Jansen to replace him, or go back to Holger Badstuber, the Bayern defender who started on the left in the first two group games.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Schweinsteiger's injury may keep him out on Sunday

Burning question

At the forefront of Germany's line-up discussions, however, is whether Bastian Schweinsteiger will be able to play. He hobbled off the pitch on Wednesday in evident pain, and trainers had to put his left thigh in an icepack on the sideline.

Loew has called Schweinsteiger the "heart and motor" of the Germany team, and "a player who "brings something to our offensive and defensive effort. It would certainly not be to our advantage to have him missing."

Still, Loew is confident his stand-in partner for Sami Khedira in defensive midfield - Toni Kroos - can ably fill Schweinsteiger's boots.

"Toni has self-confidence, and is a strong technical player. He did well coming off the bench against Ghana and he has shown that he is ready," said Loew.

The 20-year-old Bayern midfielder has just five caps to his name, but is used to shouldering responsibility at the club level. On loan at Bayer Leverkusen this past season, Kroos was the fulcrum around which the team functioned, and logged nine goals and 10 assists for the campaign.

Joachim Loew and Toni Kroos

Loew appears ready to put his trust in Kroos

A worry in those gaudy offensive stats, however, is that Kroos' style might be more similar to the silk of Mesut Oezil, with whom he is likely to play on Sunday, than the steel of Bastian Schweinsteiger, the man he could replace.

Spirits high

Just who will be in Germany's starting 11 on Sunday afternoon may not yet be known, but the team's confidence has not dipped.

"We have the ability to beat them," Loew said of England. "As always with big games, we're going to go into it not with fear, but with courage. None of our guys are going to back down or cave in."

Philipp Lahm and a baby Lion

Lahm has tamed a lion - but can he tame three?

Team captain Philipp Lahm echoed his coach, saying "we're going to get down to business, be aggressive, and fight for each centimeter."

Lahm also said he hoped Germany could finish England off in regular time, thus avoiding a penalty kick tiebreaker.

Germany beat England on penalties in the semifinals of both the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 European Championships, touching off a string of tournament exits on penalties for England in ensuing years.

But if it did go to penalties, said Lahm, he was assured Germany would prevail again. Not only because they have several "very good penalty takers," but also because they have one who Lahm believes is "certain" to score: third-string goalkeeper Joerg Butt.

Indeed, through much of his club career at Hamburg, Leverkusen and elsewhere, the 36-year-old keeper (now at Bayern Munich) has been his team's designated penalty taker. As a result, he is the Bundesliga's all-time leading goal-scoring goalkeeper, with 26 goals to his name. Butt is also no slouch at stopping penalties - with 14 saves, he is fifth on the all-time list in the Bundesliga.

Author: Matt Hermann (Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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