Germany may be one of the favourites for the competition, but they have not won a game at the European Championship finals since their victory in the 1996 final.
“We want to change that as quickly as possible,” Germany coach Joachim Löw said. “I think we have a team that can do it.”
Germany plan to use striker Miroslav Klose as their main weapon to break their 12-year drought. Klose, the top scorer at the 2006 World Cup, was born in Oppeln, Poland, and having picked up the Bundesliga title, German Cup and German League Cup last season with Bayern Munich, he wants to translate his success to the European stage.
With 39 goals and 75 caps, Klose will turn 30 the day after Sunday’s opening Group B game in Klagenfurt, Austria, and is sure to test the Polish defence. Having scored five goals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, he is vastly experienced and Löw insists he is in peak form.
“Miroslav has left a fantastic impression in training, I have never seen him that fit, that agile and strong,” Löw said.
While Löw will have a full strength side to choose from – he is expected to play Klose up front alongside Germany’s player of the year in 2007 Mario Gomez – Polish coach Leo Beenhakker has had to reshuffle his team.
Midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, will miss the entire tournament after aggravating a hamstring injury in training on Thursday. Beenhakker also lost left-back Grzegorz Bronowicki from his provisional squad last month because of a knee injury and will have to field a makeshift defence in the Germany match.
Löw said he was impressed by the strides the Polish team had made since the 2006 World Cup. Germany snatched a late goal to record a 1-0 victory over the Poles in the group stages.
“When I watched videos of their matches the team appeared very compact and it looks like the Dutch style of attacking football has left its mark on them,” Löw said.
Both the Polish and German camps insist there is no tension between them despite efforts in the Polish media to raise the ante. The match is regarded as one of the most sensitive of the tournament given the history between the two countries.
Late Saturday, seven German supporters were arrested in Klagenfurt after incidents with Polish fans on the eve of their Euro-2008 encounter. After glasses were thrown among a group of about 100 supporters, the police moved in to separate the two camps.
Nearly 25,000 Germans and 20,000 Poles are expected for Sunday’s Group B match. The matches in Klagenfurt involving Germany, Poland and Croatia are deemed high-risk because of the fans’ reputation for violence.
Polish tabloid Super Express did nothing to help the situation by running a doctored picture of Beenhakker holding the heads of Germany coach Löw and captain Michael Ballack under the headline: “Leo, bring us their heads!”
Beenhakker described the picture as “sick” and met Löw at Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee Stadium on Saturday to apologise in person for the image.
“Everyone has been living with this match in different ways,” the 65-year-old Dutchman said. “We saw a bad example last week, let’s just bring it back to football,” he added. “We just have to do our best for the team, concentrate on football and seperate ourselves from the rest.”
History favours Löw’s side as in the 15 meetings betweeen the teams since 1933, Poland have yet to win, while Germany have won 11 of them with the other four finishing in draws.
“Slowly, but surely we are feeding our players information on Poland, we
have a detailed analysis from our chief scout, so the players know what the opposition is capable of,” said Löw. “If we play to our full potential and are physical against Poland, I think we will win.”