Löw confident Liechtenstein will fall to Germany
Coach Joachim Löw says Germany will win both their opening games on the road to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as they begin their campaign at minnows Liechtenstein on Saturday.
Germany, ranked third in the world by FIFA, expect few problems in Vaduz against the team from the tiny central European state - ranked 130 - which is just 160 square kilometres large and has a population of just over 35,000.
“We want to win and we will win," said Löw, who is without injured midfield veterans Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings at Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz which has a 7,000 capacity.
Löw expects things will get tougher for Germany when they play Finland at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium on Wednesday. “Many favourites have been beaten in Helsinki and we must not fall into that trap,” he said.
With only the top team from each of the nine European qualifying groups guaranteed a place in South Africa, Löw says Germany's main threats are Russia and Finland.
“Only first place means you qualify as of rights, naturally we want to take our place without the need of a detour, so six points from our first two games would be enormously important,” he said.
“I do not want to talk Liechtenstein up, but they have only lost by a relatively narrow margin to big teams like England or Spain.”
But regardless of Löw's comments, Liechtenstein have leaked 17 goals against Germany in their only two previous meetings. In June 1996, Germany beat them 9-1 in Mannheim and four years later managed an 8-2 win in Freiburg.
But Löw warned against expectations of a goal bonanza like in the 13-0 victory over San Marino in a Euro 2008 qualifier two years ago.
“This team are not on the same level as Luxembourg, Andorra or San Marino,
they are stronger,” he insisted.
Missing midfielders Ballack and Frings, plus defenders Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich, Löw says he would prefer to take a full strength side to Vaduz.
He said, “The injuries are annoying. They are very importantly for us and I would rather have them here.”
With their main Group 4 rivals Russia and Wales the next two opponents in October's round of matches, Löw fears his team's Euro 2008 exertions could catch up with his team who have had little break since reaching June's final.
“It concerns me that the national players had such a short break and short preparation time after such a big tournament,” he said.
“We are missing the basis of six weeks conditioning and there is a danger players will get injured,” said Löw. “But we have to get on with the situation.”
With Ballack and Frings out, Löw is expected to play VfB Stuttgart's Thomas Hitzlsperger and Simon Rolfes as central midfielders, while winger Bastian Schweinsteiger is also an option.
In the absence of Ballack, Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose will captain Germany, but it is unclear whether team-mate Lukas Podolski, who has failed to win a regular place in Bayern, will partner him.
“Lukas Podolski has a role for me as either a striker or attacking midfielder,” said Löw, who used the 23-year-old to devastating effect during Euro 2008.