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Germany looking to end losing streak in Euro 2008 opener against Poland

Germany looking to end losing streak in Euro 2008 opener against Poland

It's been 12 years since Germany won a European Championship match and coach Joachim Loew doesn't want to waste any time snapping that winless streak when his team plays its first game at Euro 2008 on Sunday against Poland.
"The last year we won was in 1996, which is why I want to make sure that we will play well also on our first match day," Loew said Saturday through a translator before a training session at Wortherseestadion in Klagenfurt.
"We know about the strengths of the Polish team, but I believe that if we can implement what we know, and if we can dictate the pace on the pitch, then I believe we will be able to play and do so quite daringly."
Poland is looking to end a streak of its own, having never beaten its neighbor since the two first met 75 years ago, losing 11 games and drawing four.
But Loew, whose team bookmakers have made the tournament favorite, warned against underestimating a Poland side making its first appearance at a European Championship.
The two teams last met at the 2006 World Cup, where Germany eked out a gritty win when Oliver Neuville scored the sole goal in injury time.
"As compared to 2006, Poland today has a much stronger team," Loew said. "They played extraordinarily well during the qualifying round. I watched video footage of the game in Portugal versus Portugal, and I was quite impressed how strong they are, how daring they are.
"I believe that the team, when it comes to their fighting spirit, their stamina and the way in which the team works as a compact unit, is quite outstanding."
But Loew's squad is no slouch. Captain Michael Ballack provides the drive, but three "insiders" might prove key against Poland.
Strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski and midfielder Piotr Trochowski were all born in Poland and are in the Germany team, which is looking to get some inside information from them.
A better bet for Germany may be to get goals from Klose and Podolski, who may start as a striker or left midfielder. Klose and Podolski started for Germany at the World Cup at home two years ago, but Mario Gomez was the top homegrown striker in the Bundesliga this past season and could be Klose's partner in the attack.
As usual, Germany coach Joachim Loew is revealing little about his intended lineup. One of his assistants, goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke, said three or four positions were still open.
Loew said Saturday he would sit down with individual players in the evening to see how mentally prepared they were for the match, then get a good night's sleep before making his final decision on his starters.
Poland took four points from Portugal in qualifying and won its group. But the Germans too have more experience now and a team that hasn't changed much from two years ago.
"We have gained maturity. We have a very strong team and we work well as a unit," Ballack said. "We are burning with desire to go out and win the first game, which is very important for confidence."
Ballack has been the target of some distasteful reporting by Polish tabloids, one of which printed a front page with a doctored photo of his chopped-off head being carried by Poland coach Leo Beenhakker, who later apologized to the German people and team.
Ballack said he did not like what he saw, adding that such photographs do not belong in football.
"But it won't influence our performance. If anything, it might increase our motivation," the midfielder said.
Beenhakker said he closed the issue Saturday when he bumped into Loew at the stadium in Klagenfurt.
"I offered him my apologies," Beenhakker said. "He was that big that he said that he and his team realize very well that not in any way were we involved in that and that it was not necessary for the Polish team to apologize to him and to Ballack."
Added German motivation would be a problem for any team, and Poland already has enough trouble without it. Star midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski was forced out of the tournament with a hamstring injury, while backup keeper Tomasz Kuszczak quit the team Friday after injuring his back in training.
Beenhakker said the injuries hadn't dragged down team morale, and that his squad would be ready by Sunday.
"Everybody in the team understands that it's a disappointing situation for those players, but the show must go on," he said. "They know that, so I don't think the whole preparation and the physical and mental condition of the team has changed now for the reason that they had to say goodbye to two players and welcome to two new players."
Maciej Zurawski said he and his teammates had all the scouting information they needed on the Germans, but that the key for the Poles was to stick to its own game and not worry about their opponent.
"We know enough about Germany, about their style, about what they can do and how they do it," Zurawski said. "But the most important thing is for us to carry out our plan.
"I'm not counting on the German team playing poorly or having a bad day. I expect a very good game from them, but even if the Germans playing well, I believe we can play better than them."
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Associated Press writer Nesha Starcevic in Tenero, Switzerland, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-01-20 08:11 GMT+08:00