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    Germany



    United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that he will keep his FIFA World Cupô options open as long as he can, taking 30 players to a final training camp this month.

    "We definitely will go with 30 players," he said in a video interview released by US Soccer discussing the training camp at Stanford University in northern California. "The timing is still complicated. Some come back from injuries, some we need still to see and evaluate in the camp then itself, so we decided to take advantage of this whole 30-man roster.

    "It makes it a little bit more tricky with the training sessions, but we prepared them already, so we have good, quality work prepared for them."
    All World Cup teams must give FIFA their 30-man provisional squads by 12 May. The final 23-man squads must be declared by 2 June.

    Klinsmann had originally expected to take 26 to 28 players to the final training camp that opens on 14 May, but said getting a first-hand look at all the players at his disposal was vital.

    "For us coaches, it's really, really important to see every one of them, in every training session, in scrimmages, and over the stretch of two and a half weeks, to be sure that we really have the right 23 going to Brazil," he said. The former German international Klinsmann predicted "a very competitive camp".

    The United States has three friendly tune-ups scheduled before the World Cup, on 27 May against Azerbaijan in San Francisco, on 1 June against Turkey in Harrison, New Jersey and on 7 June against Nigeria in Jacksonville, Florida.

    USA are drawn in Group G in the first round of the World Cup, along with Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

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    Klose in for Germany, Gomez misses out

    Germany coach Joachim Low has named a preliminary squad of 30 players for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazilô, with Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez the biggest name to miss the cut.

    Low will reduce his squad to "25 to 26 players" after the DFB-Pokal final and a friendly against Poland next week before naming his final 23-man squad at the end of the month.

    "We've made these decisions for our 30 players with total conviction," said Low. "It was a clear 'yes' for each of these players. Of course we will have to send a few players home still and that will lead to individual disappointment, but those who are included should know that they are part of the German elite."

    Germany squad

    Goalkeepers:
    Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover).

    Defenders:
    Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm, Kevin Grosskreutz (both Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Marcell Jansen (Hamburg), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria), Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund).

    Midfielders:
    Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Draxler (Schalke), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Leon Goretzka (Schalke), Andre Hahn (Augsburg), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Max Meyer (Schalke), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Kevin Volland (Hoffenheim), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg).

    Forwards:
    Lukas Podolski (Arsenal), Miroslav Klose (Lazio).

    (* Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.)

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    Germany, Poland end in stalemate

    Germany got their FIFA World Cupô preparations off to an underwhelming start as they played out a goalless draw with Poland at the Imtech Arena in Hamburg.

    Antonio Rudiger and Andre Hahn each had shots cleared off the line but the hosts never really came close to doing enough to earn victory. Joachim Low had to shuffle his pack for the friendly, with Julian Draxler the only survivor in the starting line-up from the 5-3 win over Sweden in their last World Cup qualifier in October.

    Low handed full international debuts to four players, including former Sampdoria centre-back Shkodran Mustafi, with most of his key men still tied up with club duties. Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick said earlier this week that the friendly would be a great opportunity for fringe players to make their case to go to Brazil, but the game began at a pedestrian pace with neither side offering much.

    All they could manage were tame long-range shots that were easily gathered by Germany's Ron-Robert Zieler and Poland's Artur Boruc respectively, before Rudiger had the first meaningful chance in the 31st minute.

    He rose well on the edge of the six-yard box to head towards goal from a corner, but Slawomir Peszko stood strong to clear off the line, with Southampton keeper Boruc beaten. Draxler tried to break the deadlock twice in three minutes shortly after the break, but his right-footed effort from just inside the box went wide and a snapshot from 25 yards flew over the bar.

    In the closing stages Hahn came close to breaking the deadlock for the hosts, but Maciej Rybus was waiting on the line to clear his hooked shot from six yards out after the visitors made a hash of clearing a corner from Draxler.

    There were shouts for a penalty when substitute Maximilian Arnold went down after weaving his way past three defenders before going down, but referee David Fernandez Borbalan waved away the appeals and the game ended in stalemate.

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    Low faced with German injury worries

    Germany will begin their pre-FIFA World Cupô training camp on Wednesday amid injury concerns to several key players. Coach Joachim Low will gather his 27-man squad at a five-star hotel in the idyllic south Tirolean resort of St, Leonhard, where his stars will train in northern Italy for the next ten days. They play their opening Group G match against Portugal in Salvador on 16 June.

    There are concerns for the Bayern Munich trio of Germany skipper Philipp Lahm (bruised ankle), vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger (inflamed knee ligament) and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (shoulder). Low will also have to asses the fitness of Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira and Lazio striker Miroslav Klose, both of whom are short of match-fitness after long spells on the sidelines.

    "With regard to the World Cup participation of Manuel and Philipp, we are optimistic but both will be treated intensively," said Low. "It is good and also important that they will be with us from the start in the Tirol, even if they won't initially be able to train."

    The most serious question mark is over Schweinsteiger, who is not expected to train before the end of next week and missed Saturday's DFB Pokal final.

    Germany have two friendlies - against Cameroon in Moenchengladbach on 1 June and Armenia in Mainz five days later - before flying to Brazil. Regardless of injury concerns, Low believes the situation can increase competition for places.

    "I want to see players fighting for their World Cup berths," he said. "The tournament will certainly challenge all the players physically. Those who go with us to Brazil must all have top fitness and be in a good playing rhythm, that is what the training camp is all about."

    The German Football Association (DFB) will also take the U-23 squad to south Tirol so that Low has quality opposition for training matches when he works on tactics.

    Low must trim four names from his preliminary squad. "There will be some hard choices, but that is part of my job," he said.

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    Lahm: Our defence must improve

    Germany captain Philipp Lahm feels said his side must drastically improve their defence or risk an early 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ exit. "We have to work especially on our defence," the Bayern Munich star told Bild with Germany facing Portugal in their opening Group G game on 16 June in Salvador.

    "Recently, we have conceded far too many goals and allowed our opponents too many chances. We must pay more attention to our defensive formation and the whole team is needed for that."

    Traditionally, Germany have relied on a rock-solid defence at major tournaments, but they have leaked goals in recent games, namely the 3-3 friendly with Paraguay last August and the 4-4 World Cup qualifier against Sweden in October 2012. The 30-year-old Lahm admits this could well be his last chance to win the World Cup title having reached the semi-finals at both Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.

    "I do not want to go out in the semi-finals again or visit Brazil to soak up the sun," he said with Germany having finished third at the last two World Cups. "I have a clear goal, to achieve the biggest possible success and win the World Cup. We have the necessary punch to win the title, but we must be sure that the talent and ego of every individual provides only for the team's benefit."

    Germany started their ten-day pre-World Cup training camp in the north Italian Alps on Wednesday and face two final warm-up matches against Cameroon on 1 June in Moenchengladbach and Armenia on 6 June in Mainz. A German Football Association (DFB) spokesman said Lahm is expected to join the squad in the resort of St. Leonhard on Friday having picked up an ankle injury. Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker will arrive in the next few days after becoming a father for the second time.

    Vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger arrived with the squad as he recovers from an inflamed knee ligament and his Bayern Munich team-mate goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a shoulder injury, will travel to the south Tirol only after receiving treatment. Lahm meanwhile says he hopes to continue working with Germany's head coach Joachim Loew after the World Cup with the 54-year-old under contract until after UEFA EURO 2016. "The fact is that he has a contract, as a team we work well together with him and he always prepares us very well tactically," said Lahm.

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    Bender out of World Cup

    Lars Bender was on Friday ruled out of next month's World Cup after suffering a thigh injury to deepen Germany's defensive midfield woes three weeks before their Brazil 2014 campaign. The 25-year-old tore a tendon in his upper right thigh at their pre-World Cup training camp in north Italy, which he will leave on Friday, with Germany facing Portugal in their opening Group G game on 16 June in Salvador.

    Germany head coach Joachim Low has opted not to replace Bender in his 26-man squad, which needs to be reduced to 23 by 2 June, but admits the loss of the Bayer Leverkusen star is a blow.

    Bender's withdrawal further hampers Low's defensive midfield plans where vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is unable to train with tendinitis of the knee while Real Madrid's Sami Khedira will not join the squad until after Saturday's UEFA Champions League final and spent most of the last six month sidelined with a knee injury.

    "When a player drops out just before the start of a tournament with an injury, then it's disappointing for everyone," Low told the German Football Association (DFB) website after Bender suffered the injury on Thursday. "I am personally very sorry for Lars and I know he really wanted to be in Brazil. In terms of his performances and character he is a absolute role model."

    Low is already waiting on captain Philipp Lahm (ankle) and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (shoulder) with the Bayern Munich pair receiving intensive treatment from the DFB's medical staff and are currently unable to train.

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    Klose ready to break records in Brazil

    Germany's veteran striker Miroslav Klose has said he will be "100 per cent" ready for next month's FIFA World Cupô in Brazil, where he aims to break the tournament's goal record.

    With 14 goals at three previous World Cup finals, the 35-year-old Klose is just one short of Brazil striker Ronaldo's record of 15 for the all-time goalscorer. As one of only two strikers in the squad, the veteran says he will be ready when Germany open their Group G campaign against Portugal in Salvador on 16 June after being blighted by injury at his Italian club Lazio from the end of March until the start of May.

    "I assume I will be 100 per cent ready for the tournament," the ex-Bayern and Werder Bremen star said from the German team's training camp in north Italy on Friday. "I feel good and I'm on the right path. The fitness coaches know me very well and they know exactly what I need, so everything is moving in the right direction."

    Klose said his priority is to the team, rather than claiming goal records.

    "For me, the main thing is to be fit and the most important thing is the team," he said. "I am convinced that when the team plays well, then the striker will also get his chances. But anyone who knows me is aware that the goal record is a target of mine."

    I am convinced that when the team plays well, then the striker will also get his chances.

    Germany play the USA and Ghana in their other Group G matches. There was bad news from the German camp on Friday as defensive midfielder Lars Bender, 25, was ruled out of Brazil 2014 with a thigh injury.
    "We all know what a good footballer Lars is and he played a good season," Klose said. "You need good players like that and I am really sorry for him that he is now injured."

    While Klose has always played as a striker, but says he can just as easily slot into the attacking midfield if needed.

    "Basically, I can play the 'False Nine', but regardless of who has experience, at the end of the day the coach makes the decision," Klose said.

    "I just want to train so that the World Cup doesn't pass me by."

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    Lahm and Neuer join Germans

    Coach Joachim Low welcomed Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer into Germany's pre-FIFA World Cup™ camp on Saturday before holding a closed doors training session on Saturday to fine-tune their Brazil 2014 plans. German captain Lahm, who has laboured with an ankle injury, and goalkeeper Neuer (shoulder) finally joined the squad late on Friday having missed the first few days in north Italy where Low's squad assembled on Wednesday for their ten-day camp.

    The Bayern Munich pair had remained in the Bavarian capital to receive intense treatment from the German Football Association (DFB) medical staff under head doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt. Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker has also joined the Germans having missed the first three days after the birth of his second child. His Gunners team-mate, attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, was unable to train on Saturday due to a slight cold.

    "I'm glad that in addition to Per Mertesacker, now Philipp and Manu have joined the team," said Low. "Even if they could not initially train with us, their presence is important. The squad is almost complete, now we are only missing (Real Madrid's) Sami Khedira, who will join us after the Champions League final."

    For the first time since the Germans have been in camp, Low trained behind closed doors on Saturday with a match against Germany's U-20 squad planned for Sunday. After defensive midfielder Lars Bender dropped out of the World Cup on Friday with a thigh injury, Low has opted not to replace the Bayer Leverkusen star.

    Germany's vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee tendinitis), Lahm and Neuer all trained individually in the German camp's fitness centre on Saturday morning as they recover from injuries as Low was able to put 19 of his 25-man squad through their paces.

    Germany have two final pre-World Cup friendlies, before flying to Brazil on 7 June, when they play Cameroon in Moenchengladbach on 1 June and Armenia in 6 June in Mainz ahead of their opening Group G game in Salvador on 16 June.

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    Weidenfeller: I'm ready to stand in

    Roman Weidenfeller is ready to be Germany's No1 at the FIFA World Cupô this summer if Manuel Neuer fails to recover from a shoulder injury. Doubts persist about Neuer's fitness after he joined the national team with his arm in a sling last week. It is not yet known when or if the Bayern Munich custodian will be able to start training.

    Weidenfeller, who only received his first cap last November, is now primed to be promoted to a position he never would have thought possible a year ago.

    "I'm pretty certain Manuel will be back in time, but if anything were to happen, then I would be ready," the Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper told sport1.de. "It's sensational for me to be involved. I think it rounds off my career perfectly, particularly to go to a football-crazy country like Brazil."

    Weidenfeller has already spoken with his rival for the number one jersey, and feels he is confident of a return in time for Germany's first group game against Portugal on 16 June.

    "I had a shoulder injury of my own in the past so we had a bit of a chat about it," Weidenfeller said. "As a goalkeeper, you need your shoulder in every single movement you make, which is why it's such a bad situation to have that kind of an injury.

    "It's incredibly important that the muscles in his shoulder are built up, but you can do anything nowadays. I think he's going to be fit again in time for the World Cup."

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    Metzelder: A World Cup is an incredible journey

    Christoph Metzelder stood out as a different breed of footballer throughout his playing days, known as much for the weight of authority his voice carried in the dressing room as for his thoughtful manner and measured words.

    The former Germany international, who participated at two FIFA World Cupsô and even played in the 2002 Final, was a formidable centre-back with an unshakeable will to win. While he may have hung up his boots 11 months ago after a career that took him from Preussen Munster to Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Schalke, football still plays an important role in his everyday life, albeit in a rather different way.

    Alongside working as a pundit for Sky, the 33-year-old is also CEO of a sports marketing agency and head of the Christoph Metzelder Foundation, an institution that promotes educational projects for youngsters in Germany and has taken him back to the grassroots game in his hometown.

    Metzelder took time out to chat to FIFA.com in a wide-ranging interview, encompassing his thoughts on the power of football, the emotions a World Cup stirs up, his expectations ahead of Brazil 2014, the joy at being a fan once more and the iconic beard that made him an instantly recognisable figure at past tournaments.

    FIFA.com: Will you be sporting a play-off beard again from 12 June?
    Christoph Metzelder:[Laughs] Hipsters are back in fashion which is why I like having a full beard at the moment, rather than just stubble. Joking aside though, you only do those kind of things as a player and I think it should stay that way.

    What inspired you to grow a beard back in your playing days?
    I always enjoyed playing in the national team and I especially liked the preparations for a major tournament. Doing things like growing a play-off beard just highlighted the fact that World Cups and European Championships were special occasions, as well as being a huge honour for me.

    Could you describe the range of emotions you experience as a player during a World Cup?
    It was like going on an incredible journey. When you meet up at the first training camp to start preparing for the tournament you're just so excited. You're given the team clothing, suitcases and new training kits. Those might sound like insignificant details but they prove that you're part of a select group. With each passing day you realise what the upcoming tournament means to the team, your country and the footballing community as a whole. The tension gradually increases as you build towards the first group game and when you walk out on to the pitch at that first stadium you feel as though the entire world is watching you.

    The tournament is now being held in Brazil, a country synonymous with the game. Would you like to have been a couple of years younger to be able to participate?
    My playing days are over and a new chapter in my life is just beginning, although of course there are moments when you would love to still be playing. Still, I was at two World Cups and went a long way each time [the Final in 2002 and the third-place play-off in 2006]. That gave me some fantastic memories.

    How has the Germany side changed since you were involved?
    I think I was part of a transitional group of players. When I look back on our squad from the 2002 World Cup there was a lot of experience there with a few young players thrown in, like Sebastian Kehl, Gerald Asamoah, Miroslav Klose and me. The turning point came in 2006. Now we have an unbelievably talented crop of players and some amazing youngsters who have great quality and astonishing self-confidence.

    Could that potentially be a disadvantage too?
    The introduction of centres of excellence in German football has helped give Joachim Low a huge pool of players to choose from. That's quite a privilege but it could also be a big test for the team itself because he has to make a lot of difficult and unpleasant decisions. Sticking together has always been one of the most important 'German virtuesí.

    How far do you think Germany can go in Brazil? Can they win the title?
    I think Germany are always in with a chance. Iím well placed to say that because I was part of a squad that was nowhere near as talented as the one weíve got now, and we still always managed to do well. This time weíve got a superb group of players to benefit from the first-rate preparations and organisation. I think weíll reach the semi-finals at the very least.

    Who else do you consider to be favourites?
    Brazil, without a doubt. Spain appear to be more stable again but I still think itís impossible for a team to win four major tournaments in a row. Belgium have improved enormously and of the South American sides I can see Argentina, Colombia and Chile going a long way.

    How will you be following the World Cup?
    Honestly? This time I decided I wanted to watch it as a normal fan and I canít wait for it to start. Iíll be in Germany watching every game and Iíve quite deliberately made the time to be able to watch all the group stage matches, just like I did as a boy.

    You have a reputation as a person who likes to broaden his horizons. What does football mean to you?
    Iíve been involved with football for virtually my entire life. 28 years ago a friend from my kindergarten took me along to a training session with him and Iíve been hooked on football ever since. I owe the game everything.

    What makes the game so appealing?
    In its purest form you can play football anywhere in the world as long as you have something round that resembles a ball and you have someone to play with. The rules are always the same and thatís part of what makes it so special. Everyone has kicked a ball around at some point, everyone understands the rules and knows more or less whatís good and whatís not. Football is not an abstract thing, itís part of the fabric of society. Both a bank employee and the DAX chairman celebrate and suffer in the same way. Everyoneís equal in football.

    How are you involved in the game nowadays?
    I go back to my hometown club TuS Haltern, a typical German amateur outfit which plays football in its purest form: as a hobby but with unbelievable passion. At the end of my career I went back to my roots. Amateur football thrives on passion and enjoyment, without the business side of things you get in the professional game. Above all though, Iím just a huge TuS Haltern fan.

    Do you still play?
    Last summer I played in pre-season training, the city championship and the first few league matches, but finding the time since has become a bit tricky. Thatís why Iíve limited my time to being assistant coach of the youth team that plays in the regional league, as well as trying to lead a training session myself at least once a week. Sundays are off-limits for anything but football though: at 11 oíclock Iím with the youth team and at 3 oíclock with the senior Haltern side.

    Professional players have to deal with huge public pressure and expectations on a daily basis. Did being a thoughtful, reflective person make that more difficult for you?
    Yes, Iíd say so. The fact that Iíve always been interested in other things perhaps meant that I wasnít always 100 per cent dedicated to being a footballer, and as a result I wasnít consistently able to play at a world-class level. However, it has served me well for the stage of life Iím at now.

    Yet you still managed to play for Dortmund, Schalke and Real MadridÖ
    Playing for Real was certainly a very special moment in my career. Even today when I go to Madrid I think to myself: Ďyou used to play for this club and it will always be your home.í The club constantly make that clear to their players. Iím proud to have that connection to the biggest and most successful club in the world, and as a socio [member] Iím entitled to vote there.

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