Germany lose four centre backs for qualifiers

August 24, 2006

BERLIN, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Germany coach Joachim Loew will be without all four of his World Cup central defenders for the start of their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign on Sept. 2 against Ireland after Christoph Metzelder was ruled out on Sunday.

The Borussia Dortmund defender was expected to be back this week but a knee injury turned out to be more serious than first thought and the 25-year-old will face surgery on Thursday.

'We've certainly got some problems with our central defence,' Loew said.

Loew, who opted not to nominate any new players for the first two Euro qualifiers in the first week of September, will also have captain Michael Ballack back in midfield. Ballack had missed the Sweden friendly with a hip injury.

'These two players are enormously important for us,' Loew said.

The only new face will be Loew's new assistant coach, Hansi Flick, who was hired on Wednesday to fill the post that Loew had held under Juergen Klinsmann the last two years. Loew was promoted after Klinsmann stepped down in July.

Loew has stuck loyally by the squad that finished third at the World Cup under Klinsmann, saying they all deserved to be included on the basis of their performances at the tournament.

That is good news for VfB Stuttgart's Thomas Hitzlsperger and VfL Wolfburg's Mike Hanke, who have struggled and are no longer first choices at their clubs. It is also fortunate for Lukas Podolski, who has been off form at his new club Bayern Munich.

Because of the injuries to Mertesacker and Huth, Loew had nominated Manuel Friedrich from Mainz and Hertha Berlin's Malik Fathi for the Sweden match and they both played in the second half.

Berlin's Arne Friedrich, normally a right back, was shifted to central defence against Sweden and did a solid job.

Both Manuel Friedrich and Fathi will again be in the squad for the match against Ireland in Stuttgart.

Germany then play on Sept 6 in Serravalle against San Marino in their next qualifier.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: 1-Jens Lehmann (Arsenal), 23-Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart)

Defenders: 3-Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), 25-Malik Fathi (Hertha Berlin), 24-Manuel Friedrich (Mainz), 2-Marcell Jansen (Borussia Moenchengladbach), 16-Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)

Midfielders: 13-Michael Ballack (Chelsea), 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), 18-Tim Borowski (Werder Bremen), 8-Torsten Frings (Werder Bremen), 19-Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen), 22-David Odonkor (Borussia Dortmund), 15-Thomas Hitzlsperger (VfB Stuttgart)

Forwards: 14-Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04), 9-Mike Hanke (VfL Wolfsburg), 11-Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen), 20 Lukas Podolski (Bayern Munich), 10-Oliver Neuville (Borussia Moechengladbach)