German fringe players seek Asia breakthrough

BEIJING - A weakened Germany squad arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday for an ill-timed Asia tour which they hope will offer a chance for fringe players to stake a claim for a ticket to the 2010 World Cup finals.

Germany will provide the opposition for new China coach Gao Hongbo's first match in charge at the Shanghai Stadium on Friday before moving on to Dubai for an encounter with the United Arab Emirates on June 2.

With Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen contesting Saturday's German Cup final, and captain Michael Ballack on Chelsea duty in the English equivalent, however, coach Joachim Loew travelled East without a string of regular players. "Obviously, we'll have to replace some players," team manager Oliver Bierhoff told the DFB website.

"Our two games in Asia offer us the opportunity for a final checkup, before the start of the 'World Cup season'," he added.

"Our coaching staff intends to cut the roster of candidate players for South Africa to 30. Thirty five players would be an absolute maximum. For some players, these two games in Shanghai and Dubai offer the chance to catch the coaches' eyes."


Among the five uncapped players in the squad is Brazilian-born Stuttgart striker Cacau (pictured), who became a German citizen in February.

While Loew's squad is well on course to qualify for next year's World Cup finals, Gao is trying to rally a struggling footballing nation whose team flopped out of contention for a spot in South Africa as early as last June.

With half an eye on the 2014 World Cup, Gao has picked a young squad and is hoping to get a measure of how good, or bad, his 97th-ranked team is against Germany, who are second in FIFA's rankings.

"I think it is a very good chance to build a team and get to know the players," Gao told reporters.

"Through the match with Germany, we can check out the how far China is behind the world football."

Chinese football has been in the doldrums for several years, becoming associated with violence and corruption off the pitch and ineptitude on it.

Friday's match is unlikely to fill the 80,000-seater stadium, even if the Bundesliga has a large following in China as one of the few top leagues broadcast free to air nationwide.