Injury worries for Germany ahead of World Cup
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Despite being in charge of one of the top favorites at the World Cup, Germany coach Joachim Loew is deeply worried.
He is worried about the long travel and jet lag; worried that Germany's headquarters in Brazil are still far from completed; worried about the different kickoff times and the heat; but most of all, worried about the fitness of some of his top players.
Germany has been hit by a series of serious injuries and among the victims are some of the most experienced players on a young side.
In Germany's only meaningful friendly this year, Loew's team labored to a lackluster 1-0 win over Chile. An under-strength side with 12 newcomers drew 0-0 with Poland.
While saying that only healthy players will be invited, Loew's preliminary World Cup squad includes Real Madrid defensive midfielder Sami Khedira, who has just returned after a six-month layoff because of a knee injury.
''We need players who are physically fit and who can deal with the conditions in Brazil: the heat, long travel, unusual kickoff times, time difference,'' Loew said.
But aside from Khedira, who was late in arriving to the training camp in northern Italy because of the Champions League final, a few other stars have been unable to train fully.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has a shoulder injury, captain and defender Philipp Lahm an ankle injury, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger a knee problem, defender Marcel Schmelzer a knee injury and midfielder Lars Bender already has been sent home with a torn hamstring.
Loew has sought to calm down the fears.
''We don't have a field hospital,'' he said during the camp. ''The majority of players are capable taking a full load.''
''We are going to send a good and competitive team to Brazil,'' Loew said.
Loew has only two strikers in his squad - veteran Miroslav Klose and newcomer Kevin Volland. Klose will be 36 by the time the World Cup starts and has been plagued by various injuries the entire season. Volland is talented but untested.
Still, Loew has plenty of talent at his disposal, but he is under pressure from the public to finally return from a major tournament with a title. Germany has not won a major title since the 1996 European Championship, and the last of its three World Cup victories came in 1990.
Germany played some of the most entertaining football at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but lost in the semifinals to Spain. Two years later, Germany lost in the semifinals of Euro 2012 to Italy.
There was also an inexplicable 4-4 draw against Sweden in a World Cup qualifier when Germany squandered a 4-0 lead.
Thomas Mueller, one of the top scorers at the 2010 World Cup with five goals, leaves no doubt about Germany's ambition despite the injury setbacks.
''I am going to Brazil with one goal, and that's to win the title. Clearly,'' Mueller said. ''And that's how the whole team feels.''