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.
Loew already had to contend with injuries to Per Mertesacker, Robert Huth and Jens Nowotny. Loew will nominate a replacement for Metzelder on Monday to his 20-man squad.
Berlin's Arne Friedrich, normally a right back, was shifted to central defence for Germany's friendly against Sweden 11 days ago and did a solid job in the 3-0 victory in Gelsenkirchen.
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 the second half.
Both Manuel Friedrich and Fathi are in the squad for the Group D match against Ireland in Stuttgart. Germany then play on Sept. 6 in Serravalle against San Marino in their next qualifier.