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No fear from German ´keeper Lehmann

SoccerNews in Bundesliga, European Championships 4 Jun 2008

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Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann insists he has no fear going into Sunday's opening Euro 2008 game against Poland despite a string of errors and a questionable lack of match practise.

The 38-year-old spent most of last season on the bench at Arsenal behind Spaniard Manuel Almunia and was at fault in Germany's final warm-up games against Belarus and Serbia last week.

He was late to react when Belarus' striker Vitali Bulyga scored his country's equaliser in Kaiserslautern last Tuesday as Germany allowed a two goal lead to slip to a 2-2 draw.

And Lehmann, who will join Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart next season, failed to stop Serbia taking the lead before captain Michael Ballack and striker Oliver Neuville scored in Germany's 2-1 win over Serbia on Saturday.

But with 55 caps to his name and more than 20 matches under his belt last season for former club and country, Lehmann says his time on Arsenal's bench will not hinder him.

“No, not at all. I have played 20 or 21 games last season, which is still a lot and a little bit of recovery time helps,” said Lehmann at Germany's training camp here in south Switzerland.

“You see some world-class players who don't perform well in tournaments because they played more than 50 games the previous season.

“And I played two important games at Manchester United last season and matches don't come much tougher than that.”

Having criticised the official tournament football in the wake of the draw with Belarus – claiming the ball is faster and lighter than normal footballs – Lehmann expects goalkeepers will be tempted to punch it away rather than attempt a catch and risk making a mistake.

“The ball hangs in the air for a long time and forwards have as much trouble with it as goalkeepers and defenders,” he said.

“It makes it harder to catch and I think more goalkeepers will punch it clear rather than risk making a mistake if they try and catch it.”

Germany are in Group B and open their campaign against Poland in Klagenfurt, Austria, on Sunday.

The German media have been unimpressed with their national team's form coming into the tournament, but Lehmann compared recent results with the side's form going into the 2006 World Cup where they finished third.

“It's a very German thing to worry, we wouldn't be German if we didn't,” he admitted.

“I am excited about Sunday's game, rather than nervous.

“Before the last World Cup, we drew with Japan and played badly, just like we did against Belarus.

“We then beat Columbia in the final warm-up game in 2006 with a better performance like our win over Serbia last Saturday, things weren't perfect, it is better to make those mistakes before the tournament.

“We were punished for a lapse in concentration against Serbia and we have to make sure that doesn't happen again.”

Lehmann joins Stuttgart after the tournament having played 329 matches between 1998 and 2003 for Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 before his switch to Arsenal.

Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff said he expects the summer switch to Stuttgart will help Lehmann's performances on the pitch after an uncertain season at Arsenal.

“It was a very good move for Jens, we are very happy the matter has been resolved,” said Bierhoff, who was a Euro winner in 1996 when he scored in the win over the Czech Republic.

“He made a few mistakes in the last two games, family matters were getting the better of him, so hopefully he will have more peace of mind now.”

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