According to Philipp Lahm, the new captain of the Nationalmannschaft, his country's team are "not typically German any more". There is, though, no shortage of the arrogance traditionally associated with German sides if the comments of the team's coach, Joachim Löw, are anything to go by.
"We want to be able to embarrass opponents with our playing skills," he said ahead of tomorrow's opening match against Australia in the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Compounding the impression, Löw then suggested his team's opponents were "boring" and would provide "anything but a spectacle".
Under Pim Verbeek Australia have adopted a more defensive playing style than under Guus Hiddink at the last World Cup. Harry Kewell is usually a lone attacker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This has been criticised within Australia, but that is a different matter from being commented upon by outsiders and Tim Cahill responded brusquely to Löw.
"Let them throw stones, we'll just cop it on the chin," said the Everton midfielder. "It definitely doesn't bother us. There is a lot of talk about the Germans talking us down and how well they are going to do and for us that is a positive. We are going into the game as underdogs and hope- fully try to make our imprint on the game as soon as possible."
Cahill did admit Australia would be looking "to stay defensively compact then hit them on the break," which rather confirmed Löw's analysis. If this is a break with Australia's "have a go" traditions, their opponents tomorrow, the Germans claim, are also confounding stereotype.
"We are not typically German any more," said Lahm, who replaced the injured Michael Ballack as captain. "We have more players who go into the one-on-one situations stronger. Technically, we are much stronger and the unpredictability is greater in this German team than it ever was." Mesut Ozil, who destroyed England in last summer's European Under-21 Championship, is the main justification for such a claim.
"I think this is the best team, with the most quality of all the ones I have played in," added Lahm, who won the first of his 65 caps in February 2004.
At 26 Lahm is Germany's youngest tournament captain and he leads their youngest squad since the 1934 World Cup when, according to Chris Freddi's seminal work Complete Book of the World Cup, they reached the semi-finals while "earning a reputation for efficiency without flair that stayed with them for decades".
Not any more. Jürgen Klinsmann's attack-minded team reached the last four in 2006 and, said Bastian Schweinsteiger, the current one has young players who "are fresh and daring, and with good tactics we could be on our way to something big. We just have to bring our passion, which is part of sport, to the game."
One tradition Germany hope to continue is that of Miroslav Klose scoring in a World Cup. The Bayern Munich striker, now 32, hit five in the last two tournaments and Löw said his form was returning after a poor club season. "He told me that he felt a lot better. He was very agile, quick in his actions in training."
Australia have been poor in warm-ups, edging New Zealand and losing to the US although they did defeat Denmark. Germany have scored nine goals in three games against Malta, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina but they have higher pretensions and it is March's home defeat to Argentina that nags. History, form and personnel suggests Germany will begin with a win, but Australia are at their best when up against the wall.Reuse content