Time to meet old friends in Germany

Berlin, May 20 :

‘A time to make friends’ may be the official slogan of the 2006 World Cup Germany but for a good number of the players in the 31 visiting squads, ‘A time to meet old friends’ would just be apt as they return to their adopted home for the finals.

In all, a total of 52 internationals from 23 teams involved ply their trade in Germany, a scenario that will not only allow them to prepare their teammates for the forthcoming event, but also to welcome them to the host country.

Switzerland have the largest contingent of players based in Germany, with coach Jakob ‘Kobi’ Kuhn placing his trust in seven Bundesliga men: Philipp Degen, Ludovic Magnin, Tranquillo Barnetta, Christoph Spycher, Marco Streller, Ricardo Cabanas and Raphael Wicky. Five Bundesliga players — Tomas Rosicky, Jan Koller, David Jarolim, Jiri Stajner and Jan Polak — figure in Czech Republic squad, while Croatia coach Zlatko Kranjcar has the same number in Ivan Klasnic, Josip Simunic, Marko Babic, Jurica Vranjes and Nico Kovac.

The German top flight is also represented in Iran’s final 23, with Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Karimi, Vahid Hashemian, and Ferydoon Zandi all included. Even Brazil are getting in on the act, putting their faith in a quartet of German-based players. Ze Roberto and Lucio won the German league and cup double with Bayern Munich this season while Gilberto is at Hertha Berlin and Juan at Bayer Leverkusen.

Another South American team, Paraguay, will line up with a trio of forwards from the Bundesliga after coach Anibal Ruiz named Bayern teammates Julio Dos Santos and Roque Santa Cruz, as well as Werder Bremen’s Nelson Valdez.

Players in Germany’s lower divisions will also be represented at this summer’s showpiece. One such player is Australian Joshua Kennedy, who was included in the final 23. Kennedy has just been relegated with Dynamo Dresden from the second division, though he will be lining up for Bundesliga outfit Nuremberg next season.

Elsewhere, Togo’s German coach Otto Pfister is putting his faith in two players from the regional league: Karim Guede (Hamburg’s B team) and Assimou Toure (Bayer Leverkusen’s B team).

Only nine teams, including Argentina, for whom Bayern Munich’s Martin Demichelis was surprisingly excluded, will arrive in Germany without any players from the German leagues.