Germany hoping to have Schweinsteiger fit to face France

MARSEILLE, France (AP) Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger will lead his side against France in Thursday's European Championship semifinal in Marseille after recovering from a knock to his injury-prone right knee.

''Schweinsteiger will definitely start,'' Germany coach Joachim Loew said on Wednesday. ''He has the physical conditioning and strength to play from the beginning. His experience is hugely important in such a cauldron.''

The 31-year-old Schweinsteiger strained a ligament in his knee in Saturday's quarterfinal win over Italy, but came through Wednesday's training session in Evian-les-Bains without any problems, before the squad left its tournament base for Marseille.

''He was able to do everything in the final training session today without any complaints at all. He's cured the injury,'' Loew said.

Borussia Dortmund's Julian Weigl or Liverpool's Emre Can had been prepared to step in for their tournament debuts if Schweinsteiger couldn't make it, but they might yet feature from the bench.

''If he isn't quite fit enough we have a lot of options to substitute him,'' Loew said.

Defender Benedikt Hoewedes also trained Wednesday after sitting out the previous day's session.

''I definitely won't play any player who isn't 100 per cent fit,'' Loew had warned on Monday.

Germany will certainly be without striker Mario Gomez and midfielder Sami Khedira through injury, and defender Mats Hummels, who is suspended.

''It's not easy for us to replace these three players. That's why Bastian is important for us with his experience,'' Loew said.

Gomez is out for the rest of the tournament after tearing a muscle in his right thigh in the win over Italy, while Khedira faces a race against time to be fit for a possible final appearance with a left groin injury from the same game.

Despite the absences, Germany forward Thomas Mueller believes the side has more than enough strength in depth to be able to compensate, and that it has nothing to fear against France.

''Fear has no place in the team,'' Mueller said. ''Of course France didn't reach the semifinal through luck, but because they have a lot of class. We have respect, but I'm always optimistic that we'll find solutions, even when we have absences. I don't think we've ever been as well-covered with the players waiting to come in.''

Germany is bidding to follow its World Cup win with its fourth European title and its first since 1996. The side embarrassed host Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semifinal two years ago but Mueller didn't see any parallels between the games despite facing the hosts again at the same stage.

''If there are parallels, it'll be good for us. But I'm not going to say that we're going to win 7-1. That would be too much,'' Mueller said.

''France are under a bit of pressure because they're hosts. They know they're playing against an excellent Germany team. France-Germany, they were two of the favorites already beforehand. And now they meet in the semifinal. You don't have many better football games.''

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