Vol. 5 Num 1141 Tue. August 14, 2007  

'Germany not yet there'

Germany's head coach Joachim Loew said on Monday his side still have some way to go if they are to challenge Europe's elite at next summer's European Champion-ships.

Germany are top of their Euro 2008 qualifying group with a five-point lead and face away games against Wales, as well as the Republic of Ireland in the next two months.

The Germans - with world-class players like Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Philipp Lahm - are amongst the favourites to be crowned European champions in Austria and Switzerland next summer.

But although Germany have shot up the FIFA world-rankings from 22nd in March 2006 to their current fifth place and finishing third at last year's World Cup, Loew says his side are not yet amongst the world's best.

In order to compete with the top teams, Loew says German talent has to be identified early, trained properly and promoted to the top tier to widen the pool of players competing for places in the national team.

"In Brazil and Argentina, consistently good players are constantly promoted to the best sides and we must also do the same," the 47-year-old told German sports magazine Kicker.

As far as he is concerned, Germany have five world-class players and need more if they are to consistently threaten the likes of elite teams Brazil, Argentina and Italy.

"(German captain) Michael Ballack is world-class of course, so are (Arsenal goalkeeper) Jens Lehmann, (midfielder) Torsten Frings, (striker) Miroslav Klose, (Bayern Munich defender) Philipp Lahm," said Loew, who says the five are perfect role models to aspiring youngsters in Germany.

Germany's recent wins, including the 2-1 victory in Prague against the Czech Republic last March, have had a knock-on effect in the Bundesliga, according to Loew.

"Many teams have increased their coaching staff, they are coaching specifics of the game and the quality of play is lifting.

"Players are becoming more aggressive in their attack and becoming more self-confident.

The fact some German clubs, especially Bayern Munich, have spent large amounts of money recruiting foreign stars does not especially worry Loew.

"The money was invested wisely, in top-class players and they will only add to the Bundesliga, they will push standards up and give other players a yardstick to compare themselves to."