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Sports

Schweinsteiger hits 100 as Germany face Sweden

Bastian Schweinsteiger has come a long way since his days as one of Germany's "wild youngsters" under Jürgen Klinsmann. Now Bayern Munich and Germany's vice-captain, he will play his 100th international in Sweden.

Germany's last World Cup qualifier against Sweden can have no impact on which countries in Europe's Group C go to Brazil. Germany stamped its ticket with Friday's 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland; Sweden will get their chance in the playoffs. Germany could, however, secure the ultimately meaningless honor of an unbeaten qualifying campaign by dodging defeat in Scandinavia.

Tuesday's match in Solno will be special to 29-year-old midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger, who's gearing up to don the German jersey for the 100th time. Schweinsteiger's career teammate and Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, who marked his centenary against Austria last month, saved special praise for his deputy.

Germany's Miroslav Klose (L), Bastian Schweinsteiger (C) and Philipp Lahm react after the Euro 2012 semi-final soccer match against Italy at National Stadium in Warsaw, June 28, 2012. Photo: Reuters

Lahm and 'Schweini' have known only heartache at the highest level

"Dear Basti, I am happy to be able to respond to your special congratulations to my 100th cap just a few weeks later with the same level of respect and with a genuine, written 'God bless you!'," Lahm wrote in a message published in the mass-circulation Bild daily on Tuesday. Lahm said he hoped that after the game, he and the squad would find the chance "to raise a glass to (Schweinsteiger's) special anniversary."

Centenary silverware?

Despite the difficulty of becoming the first European team to win a World Cup in Latin America, Lahm said that the Bayern veterans could mark a decade in the national team in style next summer.

"A World Cup title would of course be the ideal fit… Let us go after this goal together, starting with a win against Sweden this evening," Lahm wrote, evidently eying international glory to sweeten Bayern's club treble last season.

Coach Joachim Löw has had time to ponder centuries himself in recent weeks. Germany's next game, a friendly against Italy on November 15, will be his 100th in charge of the national team. By then, Jürgen Klinsmann's former deputy will most likely have signed a two-year contract extension with the German Football Association (DFB) stretching to Euro 2016 in France.

Joachim Löw is expected to sign a new deal to stay on as Germany coach. Photo: dpa

Löw's contract extension is considered a question only of time

The national coach has struck an interesting personnel balance in his lengthy tenure, staying loyal to longstanding internationals like Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker. Yet Löw has also given more than 50 players their Germany debuts since the 2006 World Cup.

Birthday boy Özil

One of them, Mesut Özil, has 50 caps and 16 goals from midfield in the mean time. The playmaker, used as a false nine on Friday against Ireland, was singled out for particular praise in the press by Brazilian midfield maestro Zico.

Zico told Sportbild magazine, which hits the news stands on Wednesdays, that Özil was "the strategist in the German national team," able to see and play the killer pass.

"The last German playmaker in this mold was Wolfgang Overath back in the 1970s. That's why it would be right for Özil to be among the candidates in the vote for World Footballer of the Year," Zico said, congratulating the 25-year-old Arsenal new-boy on his birthday this Tuesday.

Joachim Löw apparently already sees matters that way; he voted for Özil as 2012 player of the year this January, a poll won for the fourth consecutive year by Lionel Messi.

Sweden are without suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, regular goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and forward Johan Elmander on Tuesday. Germany were free to experiment with qualification in the bag, but Löw opted for an eleven comprised almost exclusively of players who should expect a ticket to Brazil.

For live coverage of Germany's game against Sweden, follow @dw_sports on Twitter.

Confirmed German lineup: Manuel Neuer - Philipp Lahm (c.), Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Marcell Jansen - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos - Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil, Andre Schürrle - Max Kruse