Joachim Loew’s immensely talented German side kick off their campaign at Euro 2008 today against the Poles in Klagenfurt. The Germans come into this tournament without wins at Euro 2000, and Euro 2004, but are one of the favourites for this tournament.
Germany qualified for this tournament as Group D runners up. While the squad has some brilliant players, there are some headaches for Loew. Christophe Metzelder has been found wanting in defence in recent international friendlies, and Bastian Schweinsteiger has not looked his usual self in left midfield. Loew may choose to go with Podolski on the left, and allow Gomez and Klose to play together upfront. Jens Lehmann has not had much match practice this season after losing his spot in goal at Arsenal to Manuel Almunia. Frings and Ballack choose themselves in midfield, and so do Marcell Jansen, Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker in defence. Loew might choose to go with Clemens Fritz, with the speedy David Odonkor as a substitute.
Poland are not expected to do much at these Championships. Yet one must not forget that they qualified as Group A winners, ahead of Portugal. This is their debut appearance at the European Football Championship, and they will be keen to make it a memorable one. However the Poles have never managed to get the better of Germany in the last seventy five years, with eleven games going the way of Germany, and four ending in a draw. They have also been hit by injuries, with Blaszczykowski and Kuzcsak withdrawing from the tournament. Ditto for first choice left back Grzegorz Bronowicki. Dudka and Lewandowski are likely to start in midfield, with Beenhakker preferring the 4-2-3-1 formation. Some may remember Dudka from the game that Poland played against Germany at the 2006 World Cup- it was his mistake that allowed David Odonkor and Oliver Neuville to combine to score the solitary goal of the game. Zurawski is likely to wander alone upfront, with Smolarek behind him. Smolarek scored nine in qualifying, and is the highest goal scorer in qualifying to actually figure at Euro 2008, with Healy and Eduardo missing.
Germany come into this game having beaten Serbia 2-1 and a Swiss teenage team 8-0. Germany to win this 1-0, with Ballack to score.