Germany hope to retain lead in qualifier

Germany goes into its European Championship qualifying match against Wales with a big lead in the group and without its three top midfielders.

updated: September 08, 2007 10:07 IST
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Germany goes into its European Championship qualifying match against Wales with a big lead in the group and without its three top midfielders.

Captain Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings will miss Saturday's match in Cardiff because of injuries, while Bernd Schneider is suspended.

That leaves Bastian Schweinsteiger in charge of directing Germany's game.

"He should take over the role of leader," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "He can produce some decisive impulses."

Germany also lost defender Philipp Lahm, who twisted his left knee in practice Thursday evening. The Bayern Munich defender left Germany's Cologne base to return to Munich, the German soccer federation said.

Lahm might have taken up a defensive role in midfield and his absence was another setback for Loew, who did not immediately call up a replacement.

Handy lead

Undefeated Germany, with six wins and a draw, has a five-point lead over the Czech Republic in Group D, with both teams having played seven games. The Czechs travel to 0-7 San Marino and are all but certain to return with three points.

The Germans don't want to see their lead reduced and will be looking for a win against Wales, which has seven points from six games and would have little to hope for if it loses again.

"We want to take another step toward the European Championship," Loew said. Next year's championship is being co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

Germany is coming off a prestigious 2-1 win at Wembley against England last month in a friendly, even though they were missing most of their starters.

Some of them are now back, including Schweinsteiger and strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, the Stuttgart forward who was voted last season's top player in the Bundesliga.

Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who has been battling an elbow injury, will play despite a couple of errors at the start of the Premier League season.

Bayern Munich striker Lukas Podolski is also back in the German roster after having knee surgery.

But Loew is expected to start with Klose and Kevin Kuranyi up front.

Klose and Kuranyi will face 20-year-old Wayne Hennessey in Wales' goal. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw with the Czech Republic in June.

"This game, though, will be the biggest game of my life. Germany are outstanding and I know I will be worked hard, but we are on a roll and I haven't let a goal in yet, let's hope that continues," Hennessey said.

"I recall my full debut against the Czechs, a fantastic feeling and I believe I did OK. Germany will be even more difficult, they have tall players so they will be a problem at set pieces," he said.

Wales coach John Toschack will be without Queens Park Rangers forward Daniel Nardiello and Sunderland defender Danny Collins because of injuries.

Defender Steve Evans is nursing an ankle injury.