Germany captain a wolf in Lahm's clothing

PRETORIA - At first glance Philipp Lahm looks more like the 'boy next door' than a domineering team general although scratch a little below the surface and it is clear the Germany skipper has plenty of bite.

Lahm will become their youngest World Cup captain when he leads the team out against Australia in their Group D opener on Sunday and if the 26-year-old is nervous about stepping into the shoes of injured skipper Michael Ballack he is not showing it.

"I have no fear at this World Cup," he told reporters on Friday. "As a captain I have to be courageous but I also want to be nice off the pitch."

Germany's squad bears little resemblance to previous editions and is the youngest since the 1934 World Cup. In terms of style, power and physique have been replaced by pace, intelligence and flexibility.

Right back Lahm, who stands only 1.7m, could hardly be more different from his predecessor Ballack, the square-jawed midfielder who was ruled out of the World Cup after suffering an ankle injury a month before the tournament.


"We are a young and hungry team. It's noticeable at every training session the team trains with great enthusiasm and tempo," added Lahm, who has won 65 caps and scored four goals.

"Being part of a World Cup is a key event in anyone's life and we want to hit the ground running.

"We can set the world alight but winning the first game is absolutely imperative."

Lahm, who scored the opening goal of the 2006 World Cup with a typically venomous right-footed curler against Costa Rica, demands perfection from his players but hopes to create an atmosphere where they can flourish under his leadership.

"I want every player to bring their best performance to every game and I want every player to enter this tournament with the best possible feeling," he said.

"The whole of Germany will be glued to their TV sets so there is a little bit of tension but we can handle it.

"In the weeks before the tournament I have talked a lot with the coach and my team mates and I am still happy to be able to sleep well because I am confident."

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