Age not an issue for young Germans

PRETORIA - Germany kick off their campaign for a fourth World Cup on Sunday against Australia with their youngest tournament squad in 76 years, but age is not a problem, the players said on Thursday.

"Young or old, it does not make a difference," striker Lukas Podolski said on Thursday.

"We have many young players who are outstanding and they want to become champions," said Podolski, who at 25 is among the most experienced players in the squad, having won 73 caps.

With only three out of 23 players over the age of 30, Germany are going into the June 11-July 11 World Cup with a backbone of players from the European under-21 championship winning team in 2009.

These include goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Marko Marin, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng.

The youthful team will see Neuer, 24, often leave his goal to act as part-time defender while left-back Holger Badstuber, 21, has been ordered to turn into the occasional winger to carry the ball forward.

Thomas Muller, 20, is equally comfortable on the wings as he is as a centre forward.

Versatility has been key to coach Joachim Low's squad for quite some time but even more so since injuries forced five players, including captain Michael Ballack, to drop out of the squad.

Low has also opted not to recall 33-year-old midfielder Torsten Frings and keep 36-year-old Hans-Jorg Butt, the only goalkeeper with previous World Cup experience, on the bench.

How his young team will react on their big stage debut is still unclear, though their enthusiasm is palpable.

"I have had a perfect preparation and am ready to help the team," said 21-year-old Marin. "I can play on either wing and I hope I get a starting spot on Sunday."

Low himself has not tried to curb his players' exuberance though he did warn this week their time may have not yet come and the team could peak in a few years from now.

This caution is necessarily shared by his players.

"I am very confident," said Ozil, expected to start in midfield, in front of Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

"We are a young team that is starving for success. We believe in us, have prepared well and are in top form."

Germany next play Serbia and Ghana in Group D.

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