The World Cup 2006 is set to kick-off in just over 70 days with host Germany taking on Costa Rica in Munich. Germany’s game and event preparations haven’t been running smooth of late. Arunava Chaudhuri takes a look at the events and happenings of the last few days.
German coach Klinsmann doesn't have many reasons to smile just before the start of the World Cup 2006.
After what has been a rocking month on the playing field, Germany still doesn’t know where it stands. First they lost 1-4 to Italy in Florence and then beat United States 4-1 in Dortmund.
On March 1, Germany suffered one of its worst defeats. In an international friendly it suffered a 1-4 defeat at the hands of old rivals, Italy. Juergen Klinsmann’s boys were taken apart by the marauding Italians, who were 2-0 within the first seven minutes of play. Goals by Gilardino and Toni, were added to by Squadra Azzura’s de Rossi and Del Piero before the hour mark. Germany’s two 21-year-old centre defenders Per Mertesacker and Robert Huth were no match for the attacking Italian trio, Del Piero, Toni and Gilardino. German media and fans questioned if at all the German team was ready for the World Cup. Opinion polls after the match showed a dramatic drop in peoples’ confidence in Germany’s ability to win the World Cup.
German morale boosted after US defeat
Three weeks later on March 22, Germany took on the second string USA, which had to do without its star players from England and Holland. US coach Bruce Arena nevertheless went ahead with the game. Germany had its problems with tight US defence in the first half, but coach Klinsmann made some last minute changes in the order, which proved to be lucky. He brought on Bastian Schweinsteiger after the break and it was his free kick 45 seconds into the second half which took Germany on to the path of victory.
Another substitute Oliver Neuville doubled the lead after which Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack added to the German tally. Only after the break, Germany showed what it is capable of. The only saviour of the US team proved to be Germany-based Steven Cherundolo’s with his curious long range effort. The USA, fifth-ranked FIFA World team certainly didn’t show the qualities of the position they currently boast of. And that’s why, this win for Germany proved to be a morale boosting one. For Germany it was last friendly match before the final 23 member World Cup squad announcement on May 15.
Most likely, the true performance level of the German national team lies somewhere in between. Moreover, the match proved that Germany is a different team when it plays at home and abroad. At least, this has given hope to the German fans that the team may have better chances during the World Cup. Since the World Cup is being played on the home turf and the fact that Germany is known to be a tournament team, 100% fit and focused during any tournament is an added advantage.
Klinsmann’s self created problems
Coach Klinsmann has also found himself at the helm of self-created controversies. He is married to a former US model and has been living in California since his retirement from football. But media, experts and fans have demanded that Klinsmann shifts base to Germany at least for the World Cup. They say he is too far away from the action, while Klinsmann has been arguing that he can follow all matches on TV, live, and anyway, he has his coaching staff stationed in Germany for the important matches. After the loss to Italy the criticism on this issue became harsh and Klinsmann had to finally give in. He then issued statements that he will spend more time in Germany before the World cup takes of in June.
Another issue is the choice of Germany’s Number One goalkeeper. Germany has been blessed with quality goalkeepers over decades and currently, Bayern Munich keeper Oliver Kahn is No.1, with Arsenal London’s Jens Lehmann as his back-up. After taking office, Klinsmann said that the goalkeeper’s position is still open. He said that Kahn is still the No.1 but at the same time, he named Lehmann as Kahn’s challenger. He said that both keepers should get a chance to prove themselves. Klinsman feels that Lehman is the better keeper under a rotational policy but only after the German Bundesliga will Klinsmann decide as to who is his first choice. It is expected that the second keeper will resign before the tournament starts. This could have been easily avoided as it has created instability amongst the young German defenders, who havehad to train with two goal keepers each having a different style of playing.
One of Germany’s most talented but injury prone midfielders Bayern Munich’s Sebastian Deisler is now definitely out of the World Cup. Deisler once again injured his right knee during a club training for which he has to undergo an operation. This is likely to keep him out of action for up to six months. It is a big loss to coach Klinsmann, but an even bigger loss to Deisler, who had already missed the 2002 World Cup due to an injury.
End of an international career
Another player out of the World Cup squad, but for a totally different reason is Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Woerns. He has been axed by coach Klinsmann for critical comments on the coach and his selection criteria. 33 year old Woerns, a veteran of 66 international matches, had criticised coach Klinsmann for leaving him in the internationals played last year against Turkey and China. Woerns had said that if performance was the only selection criteria then he should have been allowed to play rather than be put merely as a back-up. Woerns voiced his allegations in publicly before talking to Klinsmann. It resulted in the player being dropped for the internationals against Italy and the USA and ending his international career under Klinsmann.