Confident Löw renounces shoot-out practice

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The Independent Football

Fabio Capello may care to look away this morning when he learns that, had England made it to penalties against Joachim Löw's Germans 10 days ago, they would have encountered a side who had not bothered preparing for a penalty shoot-out. It is a sign of the breezy self-confidence with which Löw's side have advanced to another semi-final that they are not even contemplating the notion.

"We don't try and get ready for penalty shoot-outs because you can't plan for one," Löw said last night. "There's no sense in practising a penalty shoot-out or even trying to simulate this in training sessions. We've shown we have very good players who can take such enormous pressures." It was a contrast to the shoot-outs which wound up English training sessions before Löw's side eliminated them and so was the elegant, relaxed way Löw explained that his racially diverse side were bonded together.

"Take a look at my team," he said. "My players all grew up in Germany. They all relate to Germany. They are in excellent [physical] condition regardless of their background. They are easy-going, easy to talk to, very amicable with each other, full of respect. We have a good team spirit."

This was as impressive as it was convincing, even though there was the first slight fracturing of the harmony yesterday, when the captain, Philipp Lahm, said he had no intention of willingly giving up the armband when Michael Ballack returns to fitness, prompting a rebuke from the team manager, Oliver Bierhoff.

Lahm has been one of the players of the tournament though Bierhoff acknowledged that the German camp could do without his comments in an interview with the newspaper Bild. Bierhoff denied that the controversy, which broke an hour before the German team were due to fly here, had upset the team, but he was not happy. "It's not a great idea to choose the most important week of the World Cup to say that," he said.

It was a minor glitch, though. "[Lahm is a quite fair chap, quite honest and he likes to take on responsibility," Löw countered. "We have freedom of speech and Philipp is able to say what he thinks."

The issue preoccupying Löw is who shall replace the suspended Thomas Müller on the right-hand side of midfield. The options include the Brazilian born Cacau, who requires a fitness test this morning, Piotr Trochowski and the Bayer Leverkusen prodigy Toni Kroos. There was a feeling here last night that Löw may deploy Mesut Ozil wide right, where he operated effectively against England, and deploy Kroos behind Miroslav Klose.

Löw feels Germany have made huge strides since Spain beat them 1-0 in the 2008 European Championship final in Vienna. "The players we have now are incredibly skilled, technically and tactically," he said. "In 2008 we came on with a lot of energy but couldn't always dominate matches." He reserves perhaps most respect for Klose, a huge performer in international tournaments since 2002 who arrived here after minimal club football with Bayern Munich. "Whenever it counts, Miro is there. He is excellent at assessing his performance. He didn't need me to tell him he was short of games."

Lucas Podolski just wants revenge for that night in Vienna. "It would [be] a great final revenge for 2008 [to win here," he said. "The defeat is something that's there to stay. I keep looking back and it's painful. Now we want to lift the trophy and we will do anything in our power to get there."