Friday, September 3, 2010

Germany faces big expectations in Euro 2012 qualifier

Germany faces Belgium on Friday with coach Joachim Löw expecting three points from his team's opening Euro 2012 qualifier as the Germans look to build on their momentum from the World Cup.

Löw's young squad finished third in South Africa and, having finished as runnners-up at Euro 2008, when they lost in the final to Spain, they are favourites to win Group A in qualification.

Germany are without captain Michael Ballack, who has been dropped for the Brussels game and next Tuesday's qualifier against Kazakhstan in Cologne, as he works his way back from the ankle injury which kept him out of the World Cup.

Philipp Lahm will captain the side in Ballack's absence, but the team will be close to full strength at the Roi Baudouin stadium, the only exceptions being injured defenders Arne Friedrich, Jerome Boateng and Dennis Aogo.

Löw says while his side earned plenty of praise for their World Cup performances, it is now time to put the experience gained in South Africa to good use.

"As nice as the praise for our performances at the World Cup was, a new chapter with interesting challenges is beginning," he said. "Our goal must be to take six points from our first two games."

Germany is ranked fourth in the world, while Belgium is ranked 48th, behind Burkino Faso and Venezuela. History is against the Belgians.

No fewer than 14 matches have passed since Belgium's last win against a side representing Germany when they beat the former Federal Republic of Germany 2-0 in a friendly in Brussels in September 1954.

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