Schweinsteiger, a key playmaker for Germany, was a second-half substitute in Germany’s shock 2-1 defeat by Croatia in Klagenfurt, Austria, on Thursday and was ejected for lashing out at Croatia’s Jerko Leko. And defenders Philipp Lahm, Heiko Westermann and Marcell Jansen, plus Germany’s top-scorer Lukas Podolski, all picked up knocks and face a fitness race to be ready for the Austrian showdown.
Having scored Germany’s consolation goal, to add to the pair he scored against Poland last Sunday, Bayern Munich forward Podolski is being treated for an ankle injury.
Left-back Lahm took a knock to the calf against Croatia, but is expected to be fit for Austria. His Bayern team-mate Jansen will undergo an x-ray later on Friday for a shoulder injury, but after being brutally exposed by the Croatian attack, he is unlikely to keep his place in the starting line-up.
And Schalke defender Westermann is in a plaster cast after damaging his right hand in training on Friday, but could still feature against Austria as German coach Joachim Löw promised changes in Germany’s starting line-up.
“We know how Group B stands, the Austrians will run for their lives, they have a one-off chance to immortalise themselves and put themselves in the quarterfinals,” said Löw. “But make no mistake, and I promise you this, my team will be totally different on the pitch in Vienna. You will see a difference in attitude and changes to the starting line-up are more than likely.”
Löw said Germany would have the same aggressive running game that his side showed against Poland and said he will use Friday afternoon to brutally analyse the Croatia defeat in depth with his team and preparations for Austria will begin on Saturday morning.
“All the players didn’t meet expectations with very few exceptions, I won’t analyse each player individually, but I will take each player aside and give them a piece of my mind.”
Löw said he is hoping the trio of Lahm, Jansen and Podolski are all available to play, but hinted defenders Heiko Westermann and Arne Friedrich could well win promotion and start.
Germany ponders loss
The German press, meanwhile, was in a state of shock on Friday following the surprise defeat to Croatia. Tabloid Bild newspaper declared it a ‘Kroatastrophe’ and never a publication to mince its words it went on “Help, what was that?”
“Now we have to hope and also be afraid,” added the paper.
“Indecisive, heavy legged, mentally not at the races,” was how Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explained away the descent of the favourites. “It is not so much the result but the way the match played out which surprised and horrified us, and it is that which the coach must address.”
But it could have been an even heavier beating according to Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Germany were lucky that the score wasn’t a lot worse.”
For Berliner Zeitung there was nothing but danger ahead for the three-time
champions. “Even if Germany reaches the last eight, lying in wait is a Portuguese side strong like a Turkey, who won its second match with bravura. The question to pose is if Germany will succeed in getting back on the rails quickly. Because normally if the second match at a major tournament goes badly then it is often the case the third one is the last one,” it gloomily predicted.
And German football legend Franz Beckenbauer said Friday he was in disbelief over the defeat at the hands of Croatia.
Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as both a player (1974) and coach (1990), said he could not understand how Germany could beat Poland 2-0 so convincingly last Sunday only to stumble against the Croats.
“I had said after the victory against Poland we did not have to fear anybody, after this defeat I now say it’s necessary to fear Austria,” Beckenbauer told Bild ahead of their final group match in
Vienna. “I find it hard to understand what happened against Croatia. “Germany appeared lethargic, they made lots of errors and lacked an aggressive edge. I have rarely seen two different faces from the same team in just four days.”