Soccer

Germany to cut defensive lapses against Austria

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BERLIN (AP)

Defensive frailties are no cause for worry ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Austria and the Faeroe Islands, according to Germany coach Joachim Loew.

''We'll score more goals than we concede against Austria. I'm counting on that,'' said Loew, whose team has conceded nine goals in its last three games.

With qualification from Group C all but assured if Germany beats Austria in Munich on Friday and then wins in the Faeroe Islands four days later, attention is already turning to the prospect of winning the World Cup next year.

But the goals conceded in the 3-3 draw with Paraguay, 4-3 loss to the United States and 4-2 win over Ecuador have led to concerns that a soft underbelly harms the team's chances of succeeding.

The German coach is clearly irritated by the debate.

''Look at the qualification games for the 2012 European Championship, whether we conceded many goals,'' Loew said. ''And please simply tell the difference between qualification games, tournament games, friendly games and preparation games.''

Individual mistakes were to blame for goals conceded against Paraguay in Kaiserslautern on Aug. 14, and Loew said he was ''relatively confident'' there will be no repeat against Austria.

''It's not just the defense, the whole team is under obligation in this game. There will be a different team on the pitch and it will play differently to the side that played against Paraguay,'' Loew said.

Loew, who has been in charge since he was promoted as Juergen Klinsmann's assistant after the 2006 World Cup, brushed aside criticism of his attacking brand of football - a style which has won plenty of admirers for its attractive and exciting play, but is undermined by the problems in defense.

''We have to find the right balance. I've said that (before),'' Loew said. ''We won't go back and play defensively, only on the counterattack. A good team has to be strong offensively and then do the right things in defense. But that doesn't mean having the whole setup geared toward defending.''

Both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ilkay Guendogan are ruled out through injury, meaning Sven Bender or Toni Kroos will likely line up beside Sami Khedira in midfield. Another candidate, Sven's twin brother Lars, was ruled out Thursday with a left hip injury.

''It's not a serious injury but a painful one,'' Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick said. ''As it stands we expect him to be fit for Bayer Leverkusen's next Bundesliga game.''

Austria hasn't beaten Germany since a 4-1 friendly win in Vienna on Oct. 29, 1986, and Germany has lost only two of its 80 World Cup qualifiers since 1934.

However, Germany has won none of its four World Cup or European Championship qualifiers in Munich, where its record is two defeats and two scoreless draws.

Several Austrian players ply their trade in the Bundesliga, including Bayern Munich midfielder David Alaba, Schalke defender Christian Fuchs and Stuttgart striker Martin Harnik, while Marko Arnautovic left Werder Bremen in the offseason.

Motivation for Austria's first competitive win over Germany since a 3-2 win at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina is high.

Austria would greatly boost its chances of a playoff place with a win. With four games remaining in Group C, Austria, Sweden and Ireland have 11 points each, five behind Germany.

Ireland hosts Sweden on Friday and visits Austria on Tuesday, when Sweden visits Kazakhstan.

Germany hosts Ireland and visits Sweden in October, but can have qualification wrapped up before then with rivals dropping points.

Germany captain Philipp Lahm will make his 100th appearance for Germany on Friday.

''It's something special to play your 100th national game at your doorstep,'' the Bayern Munich defender said. ''The most important thing, of course, is the win.''

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