Germany heads into its crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Turkey on Friday with the exertions of the World Cup starting to take its toll on Joachim Loew's team with injuries, illness and lack of form plaguing its stars.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is the latest to pull out injured
Germany coach Joachim Loew, whose side sit top of Group A after a 1-0 win in Belgium and a 6-1 thrashing of Azerbaijan, will look at his list of World Cup semi-finalists and see a roll call of players beset with injury problems and lacking in form.
The clash with Turkey in Berlin comes just two months into the season but with many of his first choice stars seeing competitive action throughout June and July in South Africa, few have had adequate rest.
Captain Michael Ballack, who missed the World Cup with an ankle injury, is out for the rest of the year with a fractured tibia, and Loew was thus planning to field much the same team that took South Africa by storm. Injuries and illness, however, have reduced his options.
World Cup exertions and lack of rest hit Germany squad
Jogi Loew has some juggling to do ahead of Friday's game
Vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has pulled out of the squad with an ankle injury, Marcell Jansen is missing with an infection, and Stefan Kiessling is sidelined with ligament damage.
Loew will welcome back Jerome Boateng but will have doubts over the Manchester City defender's fitness after he recently returned from a knee injury but newcomer Kevin Grosskreutz from Borussia Dortmund will have to wait for his next chance in the senior squad after staying home with a heavy cold.
"These things happen after a World Cup," Loew told German tabloid. "The players have only had a short time to prepare for the next season and the risks of getting injury are of course higher."
The Germany coach needs to shuffle his deck so will pass Germany's midfield responsibilities to the Real Madrid pair Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira, with Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos filling in for Schweinsteiger as the fulcrum of the team.
Loew's problems don't end with injuries however. Germany will face Turkey with a host of misfiring strikers desperately searching for form.
Mis-firing strikers hoping to hit form with national team
His four first choice attackers have managed to score just four goals between them in two months of league soccer and have given such dire performances of late that it appears that only their reputations are keeping them in contention for Friday's qualifier.
Gomez and Klose continue to underperform for Bayern
Bayern Munich pair Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez have barely troubled opposing goalkeepers so far this season with neither of them recording a goal in the opening seven games of the campaign. Gomez wasted a string of good chances in Bayern's 2-0 defeat to Dortmund last weekend, while Klose didn't even make it off the bench.
Lukas Podolski is doing only marginally better than Bayern's strugglers, hitting two goals so far for Cologne. And Loew's back-up striker Cacau is having a tough time as well, only managing a brace of goals in bottom side Stuttgart's dreadful start to the season.
"It doesn't worry me, it’s something I had expected," said Loew. "The players have had an incredible World Cup and some of them are showing they’ve lost a bit of strength. That’s normal."
Loew retains faith in Klose and Podolski at the international level and is expected to include both in the team on Friday. The pair have scored 80 international goals between them – Klose 55 in 103 games, Podolski 25 in 81 – and have consistenly put their club woes behind them while on duty with Germany. They will need to do so again against Turkey.
"They have always performed well for us, so I trust them," added Loew. "Mario has potential to improve."
Turkey arrive fresh in Germany with new coach Guus Hiddink likely to field similar team to the one which beat Kazakhstan and Belgium to keep the heat on Germany at the top of Group A. Only playmaker Arda Turan will be missing after the key midfielder suffered a groin injury in training. His likely replacement is Borussia Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann