ROME: Germany launched their World Cup preparations yesterday with the start of a 10-day training camp in the Italian Alps aimed at fine-tuning a team bidding for a first international title in 18 years.
Germany coach Joachim Loew, in charge for his fourth tournament and second World Cup since taking over in 2006, has invited 27 players in his provisional squad which will be cut back to 23 by June 2.
Their cool and tranquil South Tyrolean mountain retreat deep in the Alps is a far cry from the hot and humid tropical conditions they will have to weather in Brazil as the three-times winners seek to end their title drought.
But the focus is firmly on becoming the first non-South American team to win a World Cup on that continent.
“The greed for the World Cup trophy is there,” captain Philipp Lahm said ahead of their departure for northern Italy, site of their pre-World Cup preparations in 1990 when they last won the trophy.
“We have the punch to win the title but we have to be careful that the talent and ego of each of us serves the team. We need heart and passion in Brazil,” he told Bild newspaper.
Lahm will skip training at the secluded football pitch surrounded by a high cloth-covered fences at the five-star hotel for at least five days as he recovers from an ankle injury picked up in the German Cup final on Saturday.
“I do not want to be eliminated in the semis or travel to Brazil for the sun,” said the 30-year-old, preparing for his third World Cup. “I have a clear goal and that is obviously the biggest possible success which is the World Cup trophy.”
Loew will also be without first choice keeper Manuel Neuer at the start with the Bayern Munich player wearing a sling following a shoulder injury in the same game.
The coach’s biggest concern, however, is his defence with the once solid German backline struggling to find stability in the past months.
Loew has yet to settle on a central defensive partnership with Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels the strongest candidates for the two positions.
Lahm’s own contribution is still unclear with the right back wanting to move permanently to a midfield position, where he played in their friendly 1-0 over Chile in March. But his coach is struggling for fullback options, with Marcel Schmelzer and Benedikt Hoewedes only recently back from long injury absences and Marcell Jansen, who played left back in four of their last five internationals, not in the 27-man squad.
“We have to work specifically on our defence,” Lahm said. “We have been conceding too many goals lately, allowed opponents too many clear chances. We have to make sure the defence is positioned well. That is a challenge for the entire team.”
The Germans, who have been drawn in Group G along with Ghana, United States and Portugal, will be using German youth team players who will emulate the playing style of their group rivals in training.
They will round off preparations with friendlies in Germany against Cameroon on June 1 and Armenia on June 6 before leaving for Brazil. REUTERS