Germany: Stereotype us at your own risk

PRETORIA, June 11 (Reuters) - Germany will kick off their World Cup campaign with their finest squad in at least six years, liberated from the stereotypes associated with their style of play, the players said on Friday.

The three-times World Cup winners are bursting with confidence ahead of the Group D clash against Australia on Sunday, despite the absence of five key players, including usual captain Michael Ballack.

But to think of them in terms of their past style - a powerful, physically strong winning machine who made up for their lack of skills through sheer determination - would be wrong, captain Philipp Lahm told reporters.

"We are not typically German anymore," said Lahm. "We have more players who go into the one-on-one situations stronger. Technically, we are much stronger and the unpredictability is greater in this German team than it ever was."

"I think this is the best team, with the most quality of all the ones I have played in," said Lahm, who won the first of his 65 caps in February 2004.


The Germans are fielding their youngest squad since the 1934 World Cup, with only three players over 30, but have shown no sign of nerves ahead of the month-long tournament.

"The younger players in the team are really happy to be in the World Cup," said Bastian Schweinsteiger, at 25 among the most experienced members of the squad.

"They are fresh and daring, and with good tactics we could be on our way to something big. We just have to bring our passion, which is part of sport, to the game."

Passion, skill and unpredictability have not often been associated with Germany, who have been better known for their physical play and fighting spirit.

Old habits die hard, though, and when the players inaugurated their in-house cinema on Thursday, they picked the action-packed Terminator 4 movie.

"That was optimal preparation for our match," assistant coach Hansi Flick told reporters.

Germany also face Serbia and Ghana in Group D.