Despite his resignation in 2004, Germany's former top soccer coach keeps tabs on the team. Ahead of the friendly match against Italy, Rudi Völler spoke to DW-WORLD.DE about Germany's chances in the World Cup.
Völler figures Brazil will win, but he isn't writing off Germany as yet
DW-WORLD.DE: How would you assess the German national soccer team?
Rudi Völler: We played a very good Confederations Cup last summer. Of course we're among the favorites for the World Cup in our own country -- and rightly so. We have the audience on our side. We have a very young team mixed with a couple of good older players. We can play a very good World Cup and get into the finals, no question. We need a little luck for that, of course. But it's possible, like it was four years ago. Brazil is the big favorite of course. To me that's a given, because they have the best individual players. But with good team performance, team spirit, good strategy, our team can get very far.
What has changed in the team over the past two years?
Even though we were eliminated in the first round of the European Cup then, players like Podolski and Schweinsteiger got a taste of things. They had just started then. Now (coach) Jürgen Klinsmann has taken on other young players to lay the foundation for coming years. I think the team will reach its true strength after the World Cup or even in two or four years, because all these players will then be at their zenith. We can sit back and look positively toward the future, and with the many young players we'll have a proper team in the coming years.
What do you think of the rotation of goalies Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann?
I can't judge it and don't want to. Jürgen Klinsmann has to do that; he's responsible for it.
Michael Ballack played for many years in Leverkusen where you are sports director. What kind of progress has he made at Bayern Munich?
Michael Ballack (center) -- best World Cup player?
Michael Ballack has improved continually in the past few years. He is a world-class player. There's no mid-field player in the world who's more likely to make goals than Michael Ballack. The proportion of goals he's made, whether in the national team or with Bayern, it's sensational. The most important player in Germany, no question about it.
You played in the World Cup three times and then took part as a coach. What does the tournament mean to you?
A World Cup isn't just the most important event for me, but for every footballer. Despite all the successes you can have with a club, a world championship is still the very highest. My best example is always: when you become German champion, it's nice, but two weeks later no one talks about it anymore. But everyone knows who the world champion was in 1970. You'll always be a world champion. It's the biggest thing a footballer can accomplish.
Who's your world cup tip this time?
Brazil is the big favorite. Then there are countries like Germany, Italy, England, Holland, Argentina -- those are the other top favorites.
Which team could be good for a surprise?
I believe the African teams could be a surprise. Teams like Ivory Coast could be a very big surprise.
Who will be the World Cup's best player?
Michael Ballack, I hope.
In the preliminary round, Germany will play Poland , Costa Rica and Ecuador . Which team will pose the greatest challenge to Germany ? There are certainly groups that are more difficult. I do think we'll ride out the preliminary round very well. But then, from the eighth finals, like in every tournament, what counts is the day's form. The team with the best form will make it through the respectable round. But the group won't be a big obstacle. The most dangerous opponent will surely be Poland.