Germany Tests Kiev Ground in Ukraine Friendly
Germany travels to Kiev for a friendly against Ukraine at a venue it hopes to return to next year for the final of the European Championship.
Joachim Loew's team comes bolstered by 10 wins from 10 qualifying games but will be missing striker Miroslav Klose, defender and captain Philipp Lahm, and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in Friday's match.
Germany will test the renovated Olympic stadium that will stage the final of Euro 2012 after recently visiting Poland, the second co-host of next year's tournament, and drawing 2-2.
"We've already played in Poland and now we want to get a feel for the atmosphere, for the country and for the stadium in Kiev," Loew said ahead of the trip. "The stadium atmosphere will be boiling, Ukraine will be motivated."
Germany also visited Ukraine 10 years ago for a playoff to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Germany qualified and then surprisingly went on to reach the championship match in Japan, losing to Brazil.
Since then, Germany has reaffirmed itself as one of the top teams in the world. Under Loew, Germany finished runner-up at the 2008 Euros and third at the 2010 World Cup. But Germany has not won a title since the 1996 Euros.
While eight nations play for the last four places at next year's tournament on Friday, Germany will be a step ahead.
Loew sees the match in Kiev — and Tuesday's friendly in Hamburg against the Netherlands — as an opportunity to test some rarely used players and try out different formations.
"I will experiment a little in tactics and personnel, we have to try out things and we can afford to do it," Loew said. "Our team functions well as a unit regardless of who plays, it's a fundamentally better team that two years ago and that's why we can experiment somewhat."
Loew said he was likely to start the match with both Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil and Borussia Dortmund's Mario Goetze in midfield, with Goetze playing a more forward role. The 19-year-old Goetze has been outstanding in the Bundesliga.
Ron-Robert Zieler of Hannover, newly picked as third goalkeeper, will play at least one half in Kiev.
Loew is also planning to try out a formation with two strikers, instead of his usual lineup with only one, either in Kiev or Hamburg.
Some of the experiments come out of necessity. Klose is resting a sore knee, while Schweinsteiger is out until the end of the year with a broken collarbone. Lahm was given a rest, while midfielder Marco Reus of Borussia Moenchengladbach, one of the best Bundesliga players so far this season, is down with a stomach flu. Reus and Klose may return to play against the Netherlands.
"I was planning with Klose and Reus for Kiev. As a coach, you are always sorry to be missing players, especially important players. But we have enough talent to replace them," Loew said.
Ukraine snapped a four-match losing run by beating Bulgaria and Estonia in its last two matches.
Coach Oleh Blokhin himself will be without as many as 10 players.
"For some reason everyone expects this match to be decisive. But for me any friendly is preparation for Euro 2012 and a chance to test the team," he said.
Shakhtar Donetsk defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Dynamo Kiev midfielder Oleh Husev and Dinamo Moscow striker Andriy Voronin are missing. Midfielder Oleksandr Aliyev and talismanic striker Andriy Shevchenko, both from Dynamo Kyiv, face fitness tests.
"Whoever is alive will play against Germany," Blokhin joked.
Blokhin, who took over as coach in April, said his team faced a tough challenge against Germany.
"At the moment, it is one of the strongest teams on the planet. What really makes the Germany team stand out is its midfield," he said. "I told the guys: If we don't get ready for the game against Germany psychologically, then it's going to be tough. Above all we have to believe that we can play as equals with such opponents."