29 March 2004
COLOGNE – Oliver Kahn gets a rest while other key players such as Michael Ballack have to prove their class when Germany continue their Euro 2004 countdown with a friendly against Belgium on Wednesday.
In addition, it is about time that coach Rudi Voeller’s strikers find the net again less than three months ahead of the continental finals in Portugal.
Voeller has given his captain Kahn a rest which means that Arsenal’s Jens Lehmann gets a rare chance between the posts in Cologne.
Lehmann recently harshly criticised Kahn for blunders and his personal lifestyle, but has by now settled for his number 2 status behind the Bayern Munich stalwart.
Kahn’s team-mate Ballack finally scored again on Saturday in a 5-2 league win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, which leaves Voeller optimistic that the playmaker will find back his top form from the 2002 World Cup.
Ballack’s role in midfield is controversial in Munich, while Voeller plans to give him an attacking role to allow him to score more goals.
“Ballack can play every role. It is important that he penetrates the penalty area. We must field him in a way that allows him to show his strength. That’s what we have to work on in our Euro preparations,” Voeller said.
The coach has similar views about his strikers as Kevin Kuranyi, Fredi Bobic and Oliver Neuville have not found the net in a long time.
Miroslav Klose scored on Sunday night for the first time in 10 games in Kaiserslautern’s 3-2 defeat in Hamburg, but he is doubtful because he injured himself in that game.
“We just have to make the most out of it,” said Voeller, himself a former world class striker who won the 1990 World Cup as a player.
Voeller will have to stick to his marksmen and has also chosen to do the same with veteran defender Jens Nowotny although he is no longer a starter at Bayer Leverkusen owing to poor form in his comeback from two severe knee injuries.
“Jens will play from the start,” said Voeller.
Voeller also insisted that the problems should not give way to a totally negative approach in the final weeks before the trip to Portugal, where the three-time champions Germany face a tough group with the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Latvia.
Belgium, by contrast, failed to qualify at all after co-hosting the 2000 edition with their Dutch neighbours.
Coach Aime Anthuenis has to replace the injured captain Bart Goor, goalkeeper Geert de Vlieger and striker Wesley Sonck.
But he nominated striker Emile Mpenza although the Standard Liege striker recently expressed harsh criticism on the state of football in Belgium.
Subject: German news