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Germany Squad Decimated by Injury Ahead of Belgium Friendly

Germany coach Joachim Loew will rely on the core of his Euro 2008 squad in his only test before the World Cup qualifiers when Belgium are the visitors in Nuremberg as injuries restrict his options.

The German team, back row from left, Marcell Jansen, Christoph Metzelder, Mario Gomez, Jens Lehmann, Per Mertesacker, Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose, and, front row from left, Lukas Podolski, Philipp Lahm, Torsten Frings and Clemens Fritz pose for a group photo during the group B match between Germany and Poland in Klagenfurt, Austria, Sunday, June 8, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland.

Retirement, injury and loss of form means the German team will look a lot different to this

An injury to Rene Adler has scotched what probably would have been an international debut for the promising Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper on Wednesday, Aug. 20.

The decision by veteran Jens Lehmann to retire from the international game will at least usher in a new goalkeeping era for the losing Euro 2008 finals.

Euro 2008 squad member Adler, who injured his shoulder in pre-season training, looks the favorite to fill the gap now left by Lehmann and his predecessor Oliver Kahn.

Hanover's 30-year-old Robert Enke, who was number two behind Lehmann at Euro 2008, will start the game to earn his second cap.

With another promising keeper in Schalke's Manuel Neuer also injured, Loew has now called up Werder Bremen's Tim Wiese.

"The match offers an opportunity to a few players who are not usually first choice," Loew told the DPA news agency on Monday. "Of course, I would like to have the whole team available but on the other hand we have the chance to try out something new."

Loew will also have to change his midfield plans after captain Michael Ballack, Torsten Frings and Jermaine Jones all withdrew over the weekend with injuries, reducing the squad to 18.

"We will just have to share the duties, but no matter who is playing I want to see a fast-paced game," Loew said.

Captain Ballack back on the physio's table

Germany's Michael Ballack leaves the team bus at the arrival of the national soccer team of Germany in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, June 28, 2008.

Ballack took a knock on Saturday and withdrew

Ballack hobbled off in the first half of Chelsea's 4-0 win over Portsmouth on Sunday with a foot injury, while Werder Bremen's Frings has asked for more time to recover from a muscle problem.

Jones, who tore an ankle ligament playing for Schalke on Saturday, has been unfortunate with injuries just when it seemed he would break into the team. He was in Loew's provisional party for Euro 2008 but just missed the final cut for the 23-man squad.

Borussia Moenchengladbach's young striker Marko Marin was also discarded at the last moment before Euro 2008 but is now back in the frame, while there could be a debut for Stuttgart defender Serdar Tasci.

It is the only chance Loew has to look at the state of his team before the first World Cup qualifier on Sept. 6, although the Germans should be able to ease into the qualifying campaign at minnows Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Four days later Germans travel to Finland before a first home game in Group 4 against Russia in Dortmund on Oct. 11. The other group opponents are Wales and Azerbaijan.

"A game at this time of the season is always difficult but we have to try to get quickly into the season and the new competition," Loew said.

Jogi to learn from pain of Spain

Spain's Fernando Torres reacts after scoring during the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain in the Ernst-Happel stadium in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fernando Torres and Spain taught Germany a final lesson

The coach's chief aim now will be to learn the lessons of Euro 2008 and the 1-0 defeat to Spain in the final in order to ensure Germany come through the World Cup qualifying stage unscathed.

"The defeat (to Spain) is an incentive to work on a few things in the next two years, and also to develop and improve some aspects so that we qualify for the World Cup in South Africa," he said.

Belgium visit with a couple of familiar faces to German fans in Bayern Munich defender Daniel van Buyten and Moenchengladbach defender Filip Daems.

Belgium coach Rene Vandereycken has a total of 10 players in his 22-man squad who play in leagues outside Belgium, including five in the Dutch Eredivisie and one each in the English Premier League, Italy's Serie A and the Greek first division.

Germany, and West Germany before it, have a strong record against Belgium with 17 victories and only one defeat in 22 meetings. The last between the two countries was in March 2004 when Germany ran out 3-0 winners in Cologne courtesy of goals from Ballack, Dietmar Hamann and Kevin Kuranyi.

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