Löw puts on a brave face after spate of injuries

German coach Joachim Löw insisted yesterday that his squad would go into the World Cup in top form and good heart despite suffering a cruel string of injuries which has ruled out several first-choice players.

Injuries have so far accounted for Chelsea's Michael Ballack, the forceful captain, and four other players, severely restricting Löw's options in midfield for the tournament in South Africa and, in the process, robbing his team of its natural leader.

But two comfortable victories against Hungary and Bosnia in the past few days have demonstrated that the Germans have been more than able to absorb the shock of these withdrawals, with the team playing at times mesmerising football.

"We are going into this tournament well prepared," Löw said before the squad boarded the huge A380 passenger plane bound for Johannesburg. The squad, who will arrive today, will then travel to their base outside Pretoria.

"I have full confidence in the quality of our team," Löw added.

While he still has to finalise his choices in defence and attack, Löw seems to have decided on his new-look midfield. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger have made a seamless transition from supporting actors under Ballack to establishing themselves in leading roles, combining beautifully to initiate Germany's offensive play from their holding midfield positions.

Thomas Müller also looks to have edged out any rivals for a spot on the wing, with the 20-year-old excelling with some fine performances. Overall, Ballack's injury looks to have been a blessing in disguise with the team playing more freely, the captain's responsibilities now shared by more than just one player.

"We know what we have to do," said the impressive Schweinsteiger. "Most of us have gone through these situations before."

Germany take on Australia in their first Group D match on 13 June before tackling Serbia and Ghana.