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Frings and Podolski are doubts

Influential midfielder Torsten Frings and top scorer Lukas Podolski have been rated as doubts to play against Portugal in Basle tomorrow night. Frings, who plays his football for Werder Bremen, has a fractured rib and Bayern Munich striker Podolski has a calf problem, both were picked up during the second half against Austria. This is not good news for Germany, who also discovered today that coach Joachim Löw will be missing from the touchline after he was handed a one match ban for his antics Monday.

Germany have not shown enough so far in the tournament to show that they are worthy of returning home as champions. Löw has been faithful to his starting eleven during the group stage but may be forced into making changes due to the aforementioned injuries. Frings and Podolski have been two of the highlights in a poor German side and if Löw is forced into replacing these two it may mean he sticks with the other nine that scraped through, what seemed like, a relatively easy group.

Players like Marcell Jansen, who missed the previous match through injury, Jens Lehmann and Mario Gomez have all had nightmare starts to the tournament and other big names such as Miroslav Klöse have failed to hit the heights expected of them.

Portugal have no new injury worries and will be fresh after they were able to rest eight of their starting eleven in their final group match versus Switzerland on Sunday.

Possible replacements for Germany:

If Lukas Podolski is fit, Löw may move him back to his natural position of forward at the expense of Mario Gomez. Should Podolski not make it, however, Löw must decide whether to stick with Gomez, who was second top scorer in the Bundesliga last season, or to drop him for either the experienced Oliver Neuville or Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi.

Bastian Sweinsteiger returns from suspension and should regain his place in the starting line-up. Sweinsteiger was sent off for on push on Jarko Leko during their two-one defeat to Croatia. He was a substitute that day but seemed to help change the game in his team’s favour before seeing red. Other options include David Odonkor, who came on against Croatia at half time but failed to really get into the match and finished the game at right-back, and Thomas Hitzlsperger. Odonkor has bags of pace but his natural position is on the right wing. If Podolski is missing through injury tomorrow night, or if he is moved into attack, then it will be between Hitzlsperger and Sweinsteiger to replace him on the left of midfield.

Frings and Ballack have looked as thought they have developed a good partnership in the middle of the park but, with Frings doubtful, they may be forced to bring in a replacement. Bremen’s Tim Borowski is the obvious choice, although Löw may opt for Simon Rolfes. Rolfes, who plays for Bayern Leverkusen, is more defensive than Borowski and it will depend on whether Löw would prefer his other central midfielder to sit and allow Ballack to go forward, or if he would prefer to play Borowski in a similar role Frings. Hitzlsperger could also be deployed in this role.

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