Germany take on South Africa in Leverkusen on Saturday and if you follow the media scrutiny leading up to the fixture, you make get sick of the word “preparation”. For the Germans the match represents a fine tuning exercise four days before they begin the most crucial stage of their World Cup qualifying campaign. They currently lie four points clear of Russia – who have a game in hand – and take on Azerbaijan at home on Wednesday. This fixture will certainly take a backseat in importance over the double header, but coach Joachim Loew will still want his side to put in a decent performance.
South Africa will be fresh from their encouraging showing at the Confederations Cup and their ground work for the big one next summer will start here. Unfortunately for Joel Santana’s men, they have missed out on qualification for the African Cup of Nations in Angola, so have made quality European opposition the main preparation for next summer’s showpiece.
Loew has been critical of his team in recent months, alluding that they may not be as gifted as previous German sides. Perhaps he may just be attempting to spark a reaction from some of his top brass, but his technique appears to be keeping captain, Michael Ballack, on his toes. “We have to singularly improve our level of play if we want to be a candidate at the World Cup,” said the Chelsea midfielder. With a potential group winning shootout against Russia next month, Ballack also noted the importance of the fixtures leading up to that game, “We have to play two good games to show that our top spot ahead of Russia is justified.”
On the injury front, Hamburg defender Marcell Jansen has withdrawn with a knee injury. Robert Enke, Ballack, Lucas Podolski and Mesut Ozil have all sat out training for the last couple of days and may not be risked for the friendly. Ballack is struggling with a groin injury, while Werder Bremen’s, Ozil, is having problems with his knee. Hanover keeper, Enke, is suffering from flu and his recovery ability will determine whether he is fit to play or not.
South Africa keeper Itumeleng Khune is injured for the game, along with midfielders Teko Modise and Macbeth Sibaya. Right back Bryce Moon also misses out so Santana has called up Katlego Mashego and two Ajax Cape Town players Lance Davids and Clifford Ngobeni. Mabhuti Khenyeza has been recalled to the squad after the Mamelodi Sundown’s striker was left out of the Confederations Cup squad.
Prediction: With Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomes expected to start up front for Germany and competition still fierce in attack, the hosts should have enough to defeat a spirited Bafana outfit.
Germany 3 South Africa 1
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