Team profile: Questions hang over German side

As one of the favourites to win Euro 2008, Germany have a lot to prove if skipper Michael Ballack is to lift the trophy in Vienna on June 29.

The Chelsea midfielder is playing some of the best football of his career. “If we are going to succeed at Euro 2008, we need Michael Ballack in top form and at the moment he has it,” said Germany head coach Joachim Loew. But since finishing third at the 2006 World Cup, Germany have failed their only significant test when they were hammered 3-0 in Munich by the Czech Republic last October in a Euro 2008 qualifier.

There are several question marks over some of Loew’s first-choice side. Of Germany’s likely midfield line-up, Ballack, Thomas Hitzelsperger, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Torsten Frings, only Ballack is in good form. The biggest disappointment this year has been Schweinsteiger.

And in defence, centre-backs have struggled to impress this season. Christoph Metzelder struggled to break into the Real Madrid team last season before a foot injury kept him out until after his transfer from Borussia Dortmund. Likewise Per Mertesacker has been subdued at Werder Bremen.

There are no such problems on the flanks where left-back Marcell Jansen and right-back Philipp Lahm were instrumental in Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga. Most controversial of all is between the posts, where Jens Lehmann is Loew’s first choice despite the goalkeeper spending most season on the bench.

Up front, however, Germany have an embarassment of riches. Miroslav Klose, top-scorer at the last World Cup, was in devastating form for Bayern slotting 20 goals so far in all competitions. Alongside him is Germany’s footballer of the year in 2007 Mario Gomez. At 22, he is a tremendously strong forward and despite only making his debut in February 2007.

German football fans are impatient after their 12 year wait for a European Championship title and there is tremendous expectation here to add Euro 2008 glory to their 1972, 1980 and 1996 crowns. And the only way Loew’s side will definitely silence their critics is if Ballack lifts the trophy in Vienna on June 29.