Friedrich earns surprise Germany call-up

March 14, 2006

BERLIN, March 14 (Reuters) - Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann has surprisingly called up FSV Mainz defender Manuel Friedrich for a World Cup warm-up against the United States next week.

The 26-year-old is the only uncapped player in the 23-man squad selected on Tuesday for the game on March 22 in Dortmund.

'We have been following Manuel closely for a while,' said Klinsmann. 'He has been constantly improving and is a very interesting player.'

Klinsmann, under scrutiny since a 4-1 friendly defeat by Italy on March 1, also picked midfielder Sebastian Kehl from Borussia Dortmund in an apparent gesture to the local fans.

Officials fear Dortmund fans might boo Klinsmann and his team at the friendly after the coach said Borussia Dortmund defender Christian Woerns would play no role in the World Cup.

Kehl, 26, has won 24 caps for Germany but has not played for the national team since Klinsmann took over in August 2004.

'We have always said that Sebastian had a chance,' Klinsmann said. 'This decision has nothing to do with the fact that the game will be played in Dortmund.'

HUTH DOUBTFUL

Chelsea defender Robert Huth was in the squad but will only play if Jose Mourinho does not pick him for an FA Cup tie against Newcastle on March 22, Klinsmann said.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who missed the Italy friendly because of a thigh injury, returns to the squad and is expected to start with Arsenal's Jens Lehmann on the bench.

Missing again are Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann, as well as defender Andreas Hinkel and midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, both from VfB Stuttgart.

'Our World Cup preparations are firming up but the door remains open for interesting candidates,' Klinsmann said.

The game against the United States is the last one planned for Germany before the May 15 deadline for naming the World Cup squads.

Before the finals start on June 9, the hosts will then play Japan in Leverkusen on May 30 and Colombia in Moenchengladbach on June 2.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich), Jens Lehmann (Arsenal), Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart).

Defenders: Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Robert Huth (Chelsea), Marcell Jansen (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Hanover 96), Patrick Owomoyela (Werder Bremen), Christoph Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund), Manuel Friedrich (FSV Mainz).

Midfielders: Sebastian Kehl (Borussia Dortmund), Michael Ballack, Sebastian Deisler, Bastian Schweinsteiger (all Bayern Munich), Tim Borowski, Torsten Frings (both Werder Bremen), Fabian Ernst (Schalke 04), Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen).

Forwards: Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04), Mike Hanke (VfL Wolfsburg), Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen), Lukas Podolski (Cologne).