Joint favourites Germany begin their Euro 2008 campaign against neighbours Poland on Sunday with Polish-born striker Miroslav Klose in the form of his life, says German coach Joachim Loew.
The Germany team arrived here on Saturday afternoon with Loew playing down their tag as joint favourites.
But having returned home winless from both Euro 2000 and 2004, Germany are desperate to break their 12-year drought since winning Euro 1996 and plan to use Klose as their main weapon.
The Bayern Munich striker, who was born in Oppeln, Poland, was top scorer at the 2006 World Cup and after winning Germany’s domestic treble last season he wants to translate domestic success to the European stage.
With 39 goals and 75 caps, Klose will turn 30 on Monday with Loew insisting he is in the form of his life.
“Miroslav has left a fantastic impression in training, I have never seen him that fit, that agile and strong,” said Loew.
“The way he moves in training, you could see his old dynamic self coming back, running into space and physically speaking he is back to his best.”
While Loew will have a full strength side to choose from – he is expected to play Klose up front alongside Germany’s player of the year in 2007 Mario Gomez – Polish coach Leo Beenhakker has had to reshuffle his team.
Midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, will miss the entire tournament after aggravating a hamstring injury in training on Thursday.
Beenhakker also lost left-back Grzegorz Bronowicki from his provisional squad last month because of a knee injury and will have to field a makeshift defence in the Germany match.
Both the Polish and German camps insist there is no tension between them despite efforts in the Polish media to raise the ante.
The match is regarded as one of the most sensitive of the tournament given the history between the two countries.
Last Wednesday, Polish tabloid Super Express printed a modified picture of Beenhakker holding the heads of Germany boss Loew and captain Michael Ballack under the headline: “Leo, bring us their heads!”.
Beenhakker described the picture as “sick” and met Loew at Klagenfurt’s Woerthersee Stadium on Saturday to apologise in person for the image.
“Everyone has been living with this match in different ways,” said the 65-year-old Dutchman with Poland making their European Championship debut.
“We saw a bad example last week, let’s just bring it back to football.
“I know the consequences of winning and losing a match like this in a country’s social psychology and the consequences can be far reaching.
“Holland are totally orange, Poland are red and white, Germany are black, red and gold.
“We just have to do our best for the team, concentrate on football and seperate ourselves from the rest.”
History favours Loew’s side as in the 15 meetings betweeen the teams since 1933, Poland have yet to win, while Germany have won 11 with the other four finishing in draws.
Loew said: “If we play to our full potential and are physical against Poland, I think we will win.”
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