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Germany must dig deep for fourth title

By Karolos Grohmann

With their strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski in a long-term slump and captain Michael Ballack out injured, Germany must dig deeper into the squad to find the talent which can take them through to the knock-out stages.

Coach Joachim Loew is still undecided on who will start in goal with Rene Adler absent through injury.

A shaky defense, with central defenders Per Mertesacker, Arne Friedrich and Heiko Westermann still some way from top form, will have its work cut out against the quick Ghanaians, the physical presence of Australia and the skilled Serbians in Group D.

Mesut Ozil, Marko Marin, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller will inject skill and creativity that may have been missing in the midfield in the past, but their lack of international experience is striking.

On a good day they can tear any defense to shreds but there have not been many good days as Loew's team struggled in their 2-2 draw against Ivory Coast and were outplayed by Argentina in the 1-0 defeat earlier this year.

Striker Stefan Kiessling could provide a solution up front and much-needed power in the air with Klose and Podolski both out of form.

Loew had yet to decide whether to call up another player to help him cover the absence of influential midfielder Ballack who injured his ankle playing for Chelsea in last weekend's FA Cup final win against Portsmouth.

Judging from past World Cups it would be a mistake to rule Germany out, and they should qualify from the group stage, but Germany have a mountain to climb in search of their first World Cup win since 1990.

(Editing by Robert Woodward)