Germany confident despite setbacks

JOHANNESBURG - Germany will go into the World Cup in top form despite a string of injuries that ruled out several starting players, coach Joachim Low said hours before the team was due to depart for South Africa on Sunday.

Injuries have so far ruled out captain Michael Ballack and four other players, severely restricting Low's options in midfield for the June 11-July 11 tournament and robbing his team of its natural leader.

But two comfortable wins against Hungary and Bosnia in the past days have shown the Germans were able to successfully absorb the shock of these withdrawals, with the team playing at times mesmerising football.

"We are going into this tournament well prepared," Low told the federation website before boarding the huge A380 passenger plane bound for Johannesburg. The team, who will arrive on Monday, will then travel to their base outside Pretoria.

"I have full confidence in the quality of our team," said Low.

While he still has to finalise his choices for the defence and attack, Low seems to have decided on his new-look midfield.

Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger have made a seamless transition from supporting actors under Ballack to playing leading roles, combining beautifully to initiate Germany's offensive play from their holding midfield positions.

Thomas Muller also looks to have edged out any rivals for a spot on the wings after fine performances from the 20-year-old.

Overall Ballack's injury looks to have been a blessing in disguise with the team playing more freely, his responsibilities shared by more than just one player.

"We know what we have to do," said Schweinsteiger. "Most of us have gone through these situations before."

Germany take on Australia in their first Group D match on June 13. They then play Serbia and Ghana.

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