Waves of anxiety rippled through Germany's soccer community on Wednesday when coach Jürgen Klinsmann announced that his two youngest stars would not be in his latest squad. Could this be a return to the bad old days?
Lukas Podolski hugs fellow absentee Bastian Schweinsteiger
"Could the sun be setting on Germany's bright new dawn?" That was the question being posed in the sports pages of the German press on Wednesday.
After initial signs suggesting that national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann was going to revolutionize an ailing and aging Germany by blooding exciting but untried youngsters at international level, a creeping anxiety began to spread when Klinsmann announced that young guns Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger would not be traveling with his latest squad.
The Germany contingent who will head to the Netherlands for a high profile friendly against the Dutch in Rotterdam on August 17 will be without the two youngsters who lit up Germany's Confederations Cup campaign in June. They offered hope to a nation with huge expectations ahead of the World Cup to be played on home soil next summer.
Klinsmann has completely omitted 20-year-old FC Cologne striker "Poldi" and his Bayern Munich buddy "Schweini", 21, from the traveling party and has padded the squad with experience in the form of seasoned warriors Didi Hamann, Christian Wörns and Oliver Neuville.
Klinsmann has also opted for an established face up front with the not-exactly-decrepit Miroslav Klose, 28. He is returning to the attacking line for the first time since the 1-0 win over Slovenia in March in the absence of another of Klinsi's colts, the suspended Mike Hanke.
And number three stopper Timo Hildebrand returns to third in the pecking order after the 26-year old Stuttgart keeper's outing as first choice in the 2-2 draw with Argentina in the Confed Cup. Arsenal's Jens Lehmann will be between the sticks against the Dutch with Oli Kahn rested on the bench.
No return to the past, a glance to the future
But for all those fearing the return to the creaky old days, the reason for the omission of those central to Germany's youth revolution is not cold feet but achy ones. Not a man to abandon his reforms so easily, Klinsmann is still looking to the future by resting his young stars with a view to keeping them as fresh as possible for the World Cup to come.
After consulting Bayern boss Felix Magath, Klinsmann decided it would be best to allow Schweinsteiger's tender Achilles problem to heal properly by leaving the midfielder at home.
Podolski, who has barely had any rest since helping his team win promotion at the end of the last Bundesliga season, gets a well-earned breather with a view to returning to international duty on September 3 in the friendly fixture with Slovakia in Bratislava.
Meanwhile, Hildebrand is likely to get a good run in the team to make his case for the Number One jersey in the next six games, according to Klinsmann.
Hardly a team pushing the age barrier
Despite the absence of Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Hanke and Hildebrand in the team expected to face the Netherlands, the German team is hardly one full of pensioners.
Apart from 34-year old Wörns (photo), the defenders in the Germany squad are: Arne Friedrich, Andreas Hinkel, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Robert Huth and Per Mertesacker -- all young players in their early twenties who have usurped the old guard since Klinsmann took over.
Youth dominates all areas of the squad
The midfield players are no old men either. Tim Borowski and Sebastian Deisler are both 25, while Fabian Ernst is 26. Captain Michael Ballack is a relative oldie at 28, as is 29-year-old Thorsten Frings. Bernd Schneider and Didi Hamann, both 31, look positively ancient in comparison.
The 32-year-old Neuville (photo) is included in the attacking options alongside Gerald Asamoah, 27, and 23-year-old Kevin Kuranyi. Whichever way cynical observers may look at it, the Germany squad preparing to face Holland is far from being too long in the tooth. Leaving the babies of the team behind for one match should be no reason to lament the passing of a new beginning.