Friedrich says German squad ready for World Cup without Ballack

Germany's next generation of stars is ready to step up into the breach left by captain Michael Ballack, who was ruled out of the World Cup with an ankle injury, centre-back Arne Friedrich said Tuesday.

Friedrich says German squad ready for World Cup without Ballack
Photo: DPA

Chelsea midfielder Ballack, 33, suffered his tournament-ending injury in last month’s FA Cup final which has dented his country’s hopes of winning a fourth World Cup title. In his absence, 26-year-old Philipp Lahm takes over the captaincy and the Bayern Munich defender will have a “council” of other players around him.

Joachim Löw’s Germany squad has an average age of just 25, but now is the time for the next generation to prove themselves as leaders, says Friedrich.

Lahm, vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, striker Miroslav Klose, Hertha Berlin’s Friedrich and fellow defender Per Mertesacker are part of the group which makes up the Germany team’s players council.

Even with Ballack out, there is still plenty of leadership potential in the Germany squad as they are set to open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Durban on Sunday before taking on Serbia and Ghana in Group D.

“The captain’s role has been distributed around, we have a players council and the older players will need to lead the way,” said the 31-year-old Friedrich, who has 72 caps and has been in the Germany squad for eight years.

“I am part of the council, I have captained Hertha and I feel I can contribute. I am no longer just a player who runs up and down the line for 90 minutes. As a centre-back, it is my job to organise the defence and that is a position I am comfortable with.”

While Friedrich may be comfortable calling the shots on the pitch and marshalling the defence, the German team have problems communicating off it here at their World Cup base near Pretoria.

“We have been all kitted out with mobiles and tried to phone each other, but they don’t work,” explained Friedrich.

“We have tried to call each other for fun, but the phones don’t work so well. I can phone my girlfriend back in Berlin, but not my team-mates down here.”

Problems with receiving phone calls is particularly a concern for Friedrich as clubs try to sign him for next season.

He is expected to leave Hertha Berlin in the wake of the World Cup following their relegation from the Bundesliga last season.

Friedrich said his agent is looking to find him a new club, but for now the World Cup remains his number one focus.

“The fact is a decision hasn’t been made yet. I am likely to leave Hertha Berlin and join a new club,” he said.

“My advisor is talking to the clubs who are interested in me, the talks have been very successful. I won’t make any more comments until we have concrete information, but I am cool about the situation.”

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.