Bastian Schweinsteiger will captain Germany for the first time when the World Cup winners take on Asian champions Australia in Wednesday’s friendly international in Kaiserslautern. Schweinsteiger was named as captain following Philipp Lahm’s decision to retire from international duty after lifting the World Cup in Brazil last summer. But the experienced Bayern Munich midfielder missed the start of his country’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a back injury, before returning to action with Bayern late last year.
“It’s important that the captain is back on board,” Germany coach Joachim Löw said, according to the German football association (DFB). “Bastian is in good form and has taken on a leading role at FC Bayern. It’s important for the team to have such a leader on the pitch.”
The match against Australia is Germany’s first since last November, and, while a friendly, there is pressure on Löw’s men to perform. After triumphing in Brazil, Germany suffered something of a hangover. Beaten convincingly at home in friendly to the team they defeated in the World Cup final, Argentina, Germany then won just one of their first three qualifiers, and that only narrowly at home to Scotland. Even a 4-0 win over minnows Gibraltar in November earned criticism from Löw and left Germany level on points with both Ireland and Scotland in their group, still three behind leaders Poland. Unsurprisingly, Germany’s coach is eager for the team to impress against Australia ahead of what is now an important qualifier away in Georgia on Sunday.
“It’s an unfamiliar situation for us after failed to win a couple of games,” he said. “That means that we have to win our next few European qualifiers as we have a tough autumn with games in Ireland and Scotland, as well as playing Poland at home. We want to gain momentum from the game against Australia to take into the game in Georgia.”
In contrast, Germany’s opponents had much to savor the last time they met up. In January Australia dealt with the expectation of playing on home soil to deliver a first ever Asian Cup to a country that made the move from Oceania in 2006. The Socceroos prevailed in dramatic fashion when beating South Korea with an extra-time goal in the final, achieving what had been the primary objective when Ange Postecoglous was appointed in 2013. Yet the Australia coach is determined that his side continue to show progress in Wednesday’s high-profile friendly.
“Everyone’s humble here and very positive,” he said, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. “We just want to keep doing what we’ve been doing because it’s what’s brought us success. It will be stuck with us forever winning the Asian Cup but we have to put it behind us as quick as possible because we have a lot of games coming up, starting with Germany and Macedonia then World Cup qualifiers after that. We can’t rest on our past, have to make a new future now.”
The match will bring back welcome memories for Australians, with it taking the place at the same venue where the country secured its first ever victory in a World Cup, against Japan in 2006. Tim Cahill scored twice that day, but will be missing against Germany through injury. Defender Matthew Spiranovic and winger Robbie Kruse will also be missing, while Asian Cup star Massimo Luongo is also a doubt.
Germany have their own injury problems, with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer ruled out, although expected to return against Georgia. But Löw has several players at his disposal who were unavailable for the World Cup, in Bayern Munich defender Holger Badstuber and Borussia Dortmund duo Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan.
Kickoff time: 3:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN Deportes
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