Germany face real test against
old rivals Argentina
Germany coach Rudi Voeller will have memories flying in his head when his convalescent team take on Argentina in an appetising World Cup warm-up game on Wednesday.
Voeller, who will know after the Stuttgart friendly where the triple world champions really stand on the road to the finals, experienced the bitterest and the sweetest moments of his playing career against the South American giants.
The former striker came on as a substitute and scored a goal when Germany lost 3-2 to Argentina in the final of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
But the popular marksman was in the team again when the Germans took revenge with a 1-0 victory over the same opponents in the Rome final four years later.
"Argentina are always a tough proposition," said Voeller, whose team have appeared to be recovering from the worst crisis in their history thanks initially to their 5-2 aggregate victory over Ukraine in the World Cup playoffs last November.
A 7-1 demolition of Israel and a 4-2 defeat of the United States in friendlies followed but now comes the real test against one of the top World Cup favourites.
"I insisted that we should have such a game in our preparations," Voeller added. "Since the matches against Ukraine we have been moving in the right direction but only with this one will we find out how strong we really are."
Voeller, who was missing no fewer than 15 World Cup candidates for the game against the United States last month, still has plenty of injury worries.
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Ziege pulled out on Monday with a foot injury, joining on the sidelines wing-back Joerg Heinrich, central defender Christian Woerns, and strikers Marco Bode and Oliver Neuville.
On Sunday, Voeller called up TSV 1860 Munich forward Martin Max. The uncapped 33-year-old has been in brilliant form lately and tops the Bundesliga's scorers table with 16 goals. He is expected to start on the bench with Oliver Bierhoff and Miroslav Klose likely to be paired up front.
Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa has his own problems, missing record goalscorer Gabriel Batistuta, who was injured during AS Roma's match against Parma on Sunday when he received an accidental kick in the head from Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro.
The injury should provide Barcelona's exciting young forward Javier Saviola with another chance to impress Bielsa.
The 20-year-old, whose class in front of goal has made him a darling of the Nou Camp faithful, was in the squad for last month's 2-2 friendly draw with Cameroon but did not play.
The double world champions marched through the South American qualifying competition in style but have been persistently hit by injuries since.
Batistuta is only one of several prominent players on an injury list also featuring central defender Roberto Ayala, midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron and striker Hernan Crespo.
"A strong performance against Germany is vital as we prepare for the World Cup," said Bielsa, who has no other official friendly planned before Argentina kick off their World Cup campaign against Nigeria on June 2.
Voeller warned even a depleted Argentina side could be dangerous.
"They are a fantastic team and they can play spectacular football even without Batistuta and Veron," he said.
Germany: Oliver Kahn; Christoph Metzelder, Jens Nowotny, Thomas Linke; Bernd Schneider, Dietmar Hamann, Carsten Ramelow, Joerg Boehme; Michael Ballack; Miroslav Klose, Oliver Bierhoff
Argentina: German Burgos; Mauricio Pochettino, Walter Samuel, Jose Chamot; Juan Pablo Sorin, Pablo Aimar, Diego Simeone, Javier Zanetti; Kily Gonzalez, Claudio Lopez, Javier Saviola.
Referee: Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain).