Germany's quest begins with Poland friendly
Germany begins preparing for the European Championship in earnest with a friendly against co-host Poland on Tuesday.
With qualification already assured, coach Joachim Loew indicated he will ''try out one or another'' from his squad at the Gdansk Arena stadium, especially built for next summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Bayer Leverkusen's 22-year-old midfielder Lars Bender was called up for the first time on Sunday, while Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Oezil and Bayern Munich clubmates Bastian Schweinsteiger and Manuel Neuer were excused the day before.
Werder Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese will start in place of Neuer, with Arsenal signing Per Mertesacker lining up in defense and Borussia Dortmund playmaker Mario Goetze coming in for Oezil.
Poland, looking for its first ever win over its neighbor, hopes France-based Damien Perquis can help sort out its defense. The Sochaux defender was granted Polish citizenship by President Bronislaw Komorowski on Thursday.
''We have a problem with defenders, that's why we very much need someone like him,'' coach Franciszek Smuda said.
Perquis said he was learning basic Polish to be able to communicate with his teammates.
Germany-based Jakub Blaszczykowski will hope to exert his captain's influence from midfield, while there are high expectations for another Borussia Dortmund player, Robert Lewandowski.
''He's the most exciting Polish player in the last 10, 15 years,'' Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said of the 23-year-old Lewandowski.
Germany outclassed Austria 6-2 on Friday to become the first team to qualify for the 2012 European Championship with eight wins from eight games in Group A, and Loew is eager to maintain the momentum.
''We want to keep up the enthusiasm, even if we cannot always succeed,'' Loew said.
''We've certainly developed and are on the right path. We also have other teams in Europe who are among the favorites (next year). These include Spain and Holland, who also always win their games. Portugal also have a good team, and England and France shouldn't be underestimated either. But we're also among the world's best teams. We've shown that recently.''
Lazio striker Miroslav Klose will earn his 112th cap against the country of his birth, and the chance to further cut the gap on the all-time topscorer Gerd Mueller. Klose has 62 goals, six behind Mueller on 68.
''I'm not only looking forward to the game, but also the whole tournament next year, even if it is still a bit away,'' Klose said Sunday.
Klose, like Lukas Podolski, has a Polish background but opted to play for Germany, and the 33-year-old player is confident his side can win the tournament for the first time since 1996.
''In the 10 years I've been with the national team we've played a lot of good games, but when you just look at players and the talent (now), you have to say this is the best team on which I've ever played,'' Klose said.
''We've taken the next step after (third place at) the World Cup ... but we're surely not yet at the end of our development.''
Midfielder Toni Kroos, who is staking a claim for himself in the starting lineup while Real Madrid's Sami Khedira is injured, played down the notion of Tuesday's game being just a friendly.
''An international game is an international game for me. If we're going there, then we also want to win the game, regardless of whether we've qualified already or not,'' Kroos said.