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Miles Ahead

DW staff / dpa (sms)October 14, 2006

Germany are the best team in Europe at present and in a good position to win the European Championships in two years, according to German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer.

German national team players train with captain Michael Ballack
The rest of Europe will have their work cut out for them, according to BeckenbauerImage: AP

Beckenbauer, the man who was most critical of changes to Germany's style under the pre-World Cup coaching duo of Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw, said he now sees Germany being "miles ahead" of the rest of Europe.

"The first half was fantastic. The team is playing consistently strong. There has not been this level of performance over a long period of time for many years," Beckenbauer told the mass-market Bild newspaper Friday.

The former soccer great, who also served as head of the 2006 World Cup Organizing Committee, said he was impressed with the German national side which since the World Cup under new coach Joachim Löw has won all five of their games, scoring 23 goals while conceding just one.

Löw's team tops World Cup side

Germany head coach Joachim Löw
Joachim Löw is the mastermind behind the German team's recent successImage: AP

"I've seen even more improvement," Beckenbauer said. "At the World Cup you could feel the determination to win. Now a lightness has come to it as well."

Germany handily defeated Slovakia 4-1 in Bratislava on Wednesday to continue the form they showed in reaching the World Cup semi-finals and took a big step towards Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

"We can't speak yet of the European Championship title. That's really too early with almost two years to go," he said. "But when I see how other big nations are stumbling through the qualifications we are at the moment miles ahead.".

The statement was directed at World Cup winners Italy, runners-up France and England, who have all dropped points in their Euro 2008 campaigns.

National teams stars faltering in Bundesliga

Podolski celebrates a goal with the national team
Podolski has had less to celebrate with Bayern Munich, where he warms the benchImage: AP

Beckenbauer added it was noticeable that the leading Bundesliga clubs appeared to be struggling while the national team was playing so well.

Two Bayern Munich players, Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, have shone playing for Germany, but Podolski is struggling to claim a first-team place at Bayern while Schweinsteiger's club form has been patchy.

Beckenbauer said he would like to see Schweinsteiger play as well for Bayern where he seemed "much more inhibited."

Last week, Beckenbauer had told Bild, "The football played by our national team is a lot stronger and is more enjoyable than that which is being played in the Bundesliga."

The "Kaiser," as Beckenbauer is known in Germany, meanwhile said the hooligans who clashed with police in Slovakia would not ruin the good reputation of German fans won at the World Cup.

However Germany had to be careful it did not become "a hooligan nation" with "the hosts trembling when Germany comes."

"These violent hordes are terrible," he added. "I can only hope that they will be completely stopped before the next away game and don't appear again in the stadiums."