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South Africa calling

May 6, 2010

With just over a month to go before Germany's World Cup campaign kicks off, coach Joachim Loew gave the best indication yet as to which stars he'll take to South Africa by announcing his provisional squad in Stuttgart.

Joachim Löw
Loew's squad blends youthful creativity with solid experienceImage: picture alliance / dpa

Their seats on the plane to South Africa aren't 100 percent confirmed but 23 of the 27 players named Thursday in Loew's provisional 30-man Germany squad for the World Cup finals are tantalizingly close to representing their country at the biggest soccer spectacle on earth this summer.

There were few surprises in Loew's squad and even the names open to debate before the announcement raised few eyebrows when they were confirmed.

As expected, Bayern Munich's Hans-Joerg Butt has been called up as the probable third choice goalkeeper behind Manuel Neuer of Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen's Tim Wiese, replacing injured first-choice stopper Rene Adler in the squad. There was no last minute drama as some were hoping with Stuttgart's veteran goalie Jens Lehmann, who had been touted as an outside bet, remaining an ex-Germany keeper.

There had been some chatter about Lehmann making one last World Cup appearance after new examinations of a rib injury revealed that Leverkusen keeper Adler would need surgery which would keep him out of the June 11 - July 11 tournament.

But the ever-outspoken Lehmann ruled himself out before the squad announcement saying he had no interest in taking part as a reserve. "I would not have sat on the bench behind two keepers who have not come close to my consistency this season," he was quoted as saying in German media reports.

Bayern contingent make up core of provisional squad

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt
Butt's exploits with Bayern have earned him a Germany recallImage: AP

Butt will therefore take the spot as Germany's number three keeper just as he was at Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup - neither of which he played in. Loew will now have to decide whether Neuer or Wiese will be first-choice at the World Cup where Germany meets Australia, Serbia and Ghana in group D.

Bayern's Butt could be enjoying South African hospitality in familiar company this summer after Loew named seven players from the German champions-elect with Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller among those making the provisional squad.

Gomez, Klose and Mueller feature in the list of strikers which also includes Cologne's Lukas Podolski, Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling and Stuttgart's Cacau.

Schweinsteiger is joined in midlfield by captain Michael Ballack, Stuttgart's Sami Khedira and Christian Traesch, Leverkusen's Toni Kroos, Marko Marin and Mesut Oezil of Werder Bremen, and Hamburg's Piotr Trochowski.

One of the more surprising choices was the inclusion of young defender Holger Badstuber - a player who, along with Thomas Mueller, only made his full Bundesliga debut this season.

Badstuber is included in a list of defenders which include Bremen's Per Mertesacker, Lahm, Hamburg's Jerome Boateng, Schalke's Heiko Westermann, Hoffenheim's Andreas Beck and Hertha Berlin's Arne Friedrich.

Loew will be hoping that Bayern's pursuit of an unprecedented treble won't lead to any of his Munich stars dropping out through injury before he has to hand in his final list to FIFA on June 1. As well as completing their Bundesliga schedule at Hertha Berlin this weekend, Bayern take on Werder Bremen in the German Cup final next Saturday and Inter Milan in the Champions League final on May 22.

Even if they come through unscathed, the Bayern Munich contingent won't be able to join the national team until 12 days into its World Cup preparations. As it is, several key players from Bayern and Werder Bremen will be unavailable for the May 13 friendly against Malta because of the German Cup final.

Youngsters at the heart of Germany's future

Germany's Mesut Oezil, right, and South Africa's Bernard Parker
Oezil could be one of Loew's young guns in South AfricaImage: AP

The contribution of Oezil, Mertesacker and Marin to Werder Bremen's late push for a Champions League spot, which can be confirmed with victory in their last Bundesliga game of the season, has earned them their places in the provisional Germany squad.

The inclusion of Oezil, along with Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller and Holgar Badstuber, is further evidence that Loew is preparing to sweep through the Germany squad with a broom of youth after the World Cup by blooding his youngsters in the toughest international environment before consigning some of the old guard to retirement.

All of which means that stalwarts such as Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose and Arne Friedrich will probably be playing at their last World Cup in South Africa and could even play their last games in a Germany shirt this summer.

Loew's policy of promoting youthful creativity in a team built around an experienced core could be an inspired move in South Africa. Young defenders such as Badstuber and Boateng will get an education at the coalface of international soccer from an old hand like Mertesacker while pitting themselves against the best strikers the world can offer.

Meanwhile, the likes of Oezil, Mueller and Kroos, will provide the energy and cutting edge to make Germany a dangerous attacking proposition, something that the ageing legs of Klose and the current inconsistency of Podolski have not been able to bring to the team for some time.

Regardless of who misses the cut at the June 1 deadline, the Germany squad for the 2010 looks to be a sensible combination of youthful unpredictability and the stability of experience.

Full provisional Germany World Cup squad:

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen), Jörg Butt (Bayern Munich)

Defenders: Dennis Aogo, Marcell Jansen, Jerome Boateng (all Hamburg SV), Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm (both Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart), Heiko Westermann (Schalke 04), Andreas Beck (Hoffenheim)

Midfielders: Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Sami Khedira, Christian Träsch (both Stuttgart), Marko Marin, Mesut Özil (both Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg)

Attackers: Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose (all Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Lukas Podolski (Cologne)

Also called up for Malta friendly on May 13:

Tobias Sippel (goalkeeper, Kaiserslautern), Mats Hummels (defender, Borussia Dortmund), Stefan Reinartz (defender, Bayer Leverkusen), Kevin Großkreutz (midfielder, Borussia Dortmund), Marco Reus (midfielder, Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann