Germans booked in for World Cup

Five-star South Africa hotel selected but three-time champions are yet to qualify

Despite having failed so far to guarantee their berth at the 2010 World Cup finals, the German squad has already booked luxury South African headquarters. The five-star Velmore Grande near Pretoria, due to open in November this year, has been booked as Germany's base in South Africa if they qualify, German Soccer Federation (DFB) officials said yesterday.

Germany are top of their qualifying group, a point ahead of second-placed Russia. They played Azerbaijan last night and will travel to Russia in October for the match that will largely determine who ends up first in the group and wins automatic qualification. Their final game is against Finland, also in October.

Meanwhile Bayern Munich, Germany's biggest club, should be a more enjoyable place to be if winger Franck Ribéry gets his way. He wants to restore fun to training after several months of rigorous, regimented work under Louis van Gaal.

The Frenchman has a reputation for being a joker in the dressing room and regularly performed jokes on his team-mates and even former coaches Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jurgen Klinsmann during his first two years with the club.

However, since Ribéry does not believe Van Gaal would see the funny side to any prank, he has so far kept his head down and followed orders. "Playing jokes on people is part of Franck Ribéry, whoever I do it to," he told Sport Bild magazine. "If I am not having any fun, then I cannot play football either."

Ribéry may be planning to lighten up his coach, although he admits that the more serious approach to training is also working. "We are training well and hard," he added. "[Van Gaal] talks a lot with me and is getting to know me a lot better. I feel that we are on the right path."

Ribéry could be fit to make his first start of the season for Bayern at Borussia Dortmund this weekend after recovering from a calf strain picked up while on international duty for France. He trained fully on Tuesday and was expected to appear for France in their crucial World Cup qualifier against Serbia last night, giving him the match fitness to enable Van Gaal to pick him in his first-choice team on Saturday.

Bochum's four-year stay in the Bundesliga has led to record profits being posted for the 2008-09 financial year. The Ruhrside club yesterday held its annual general meeting where a profit of €2.7m and a 38 per cent increase in turnover was revealed, leaving the club with a clean bill of health for the future. "We have never had such a good financial situation since I have been at Bochum," said the club's financial officer Ansgar Schwenken.

Only the team's performance on the field is not quite producing the same results and the fact that only around 200 of 5,000 members eligible to vote actually turned up to the AGM is a clear indication of the on-field woes.

However, that should change over the coming years as Schwenken promised more funds would be made available for team strengthening. "As we reduce our debts further, we will focus our investments on the team," he said after revealing that €8m worth of debt has been paid off in the past three years. Meanwhile, the club's board and chairman Werner Altegoer were overwhelmingly voted back into power with just 12 votes against.

Eintracht Frankfurt coach Michael Skibbe has criticised his own club's management for not allowing him to sign his preferred player over the summer. Skibbe wanted to bring Brazilian midfielder Lincoln back to the Bundesliga after he was deemed to be surplus to requirements by his former club Galatasaray, but his wish was not granted due to the financial demands of the player.

The former Schalke midfielder is now without a club. "The club has made a huge error," Skibbe said. "When we get a player like him served to us on a silver platter, then we should have pulled out all the stops. In just one move, we would have been able to improve our attack by 20 per cent. It is a real shame that Lincoln did not come. He would have been able to take this team to another level."

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