Provided the local authorities do not invoke their newly-acquired powers to impose a curfew in the wake of the rioting that has shaken France for the last fortnight, a new-look Germany will take to the field at the Stade de France in Paris tonight. Jürgen Klinsmann's team will play for the first time in the kit they will wear as next year's World Cup hosts.
The German coach will hope his team will leave behind some of their old form as well as their old shirts. While German fortunes have slowly improved under Klinsmann's stewardship, their continuing failure to get the better of any of the world's best teams is a worry. It is now more than five years and 15 matches since Germany beat a country who could be considered one of the game's leading powers. On that occasion their victims were England, who were beaten 1-0 in Wembley's last-ever match.
Klinsmann insists the record is not a problem. "We know we're heading in the right direction and will soon be beating a top team," he said yesterday. "If we don't manage it this time, we'll do it at the World Cup, but the sooner we do it the better."
Recent results offer hope. In the last 15 months Germany have drawn with Argentina (twice), the Netherlands and Brazil, although they also lost to the world champions in this summer's Confederations Cup. However, Germany failed to impress in two recent internationals, a 2-1 defeat by Turkey and a 1-0 win over China, and Klinsmann is grateful that two players who missed those games, the captain Michael Ballack and striker Miroslav Klose, return tonight.
France may be suffering from tiredness after flying back from Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Costa Rica in Martinique. Many club managers were unhappy with the French federation for organising the game. Lyon's Gérard Houllier will not have been pleased by the fractured foot which his defender, Eric Abidal, suffered. Arsenal's Arsène Wenger was another who was critical of the match and it would be no surprise if Raymond Domenech, the France coach, attempted to appease him by resting Thierry Henry.
France (probable) (4-4-2): Coupet (Lyon); Sagnol (Bayern Munich), Boumsong (Newcastle), Thuram (Juventus), Gallas (Chelsea); Govou (Lyon), Dhorasoo (Paris St-Germain), Makelele (Chelsea), Rothen (Paris St-Germain); Trezeguet (Juventus), Anelka (Fenerbahce).
Germany (probable) (4-4-2): Lehmann (Arsenal); Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Mertesacker (Hannover 96), Huth (Chelsea), Jansen (Borussia Mönchengladbach); Deisler (Bayern Munich), Ballack (Bayern Munich), Frings (Werder Bremen), Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich); Podolski (Cologne), Klose (Werder Bremen).
* Last night's friendly between Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo was abandoned in the 65th minute following the third pitch invasion of the game at the Stade Charlety in Paris. The pitch invasions were by both sets of fans following goals.Reuse content