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German captain Lahm praises team spirit

ERASMIA, South Africa (AP) — Germany has arrived in South Africa with the second youngest team in its World Cup history, the average age under 25 years old.

Captain Philipp Lahm believes its the best team he's ever been part of despite its youth.

The young players have brought flair and unpredictability to the traditional German strengths of power and speed. The teams of the past rarely outplayed opponents with dazzling dribbling, instead outrunning and outmuscling them on the way to three World Cup titles.

Now, the German team includes 11 players of immigrant background, from Ghana to Turkey, who have added an element of skill rarely seen before.

Lahm, who has played in one World Cup and two European championships, is excited about the talent that can be found on his team.

"This young team has a lot of quality and exuberance in it," he said ahead of Germany's opener Sunday against Australia. "Of course we want to start with a win because this would give us even more confidence. We are convinced that we have a good team."

Mesut Oezil, whose parents are Turkish, murmurs Koranic verses before games, then makes unpredictable runs into the penalty box and has an eye for the unexpected pass to the free man.

Marko Marin, a Bosnian Serb by birth who plays alongside Oezil in Werder Bremen's midfield, likes nothing better than to take on a defender and dribble past him.

Sami Khedira, whose father is Tunisian, will take over some of the midfield duties of the injured Michael Ballack, normally the leader of the team.

Six of Germany's players won the under-21 European title last year, and assistant coach Hansi Flick said the youngsters have brought a more carefree spirit to the side.

"I find it good how they communicate with each other," Flick said.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, who at 25 is one of the senior players, said he is very confident.

"We know from experience how such a tournament runs. We will pass this on to the young players, who are very much looking forward to the games," Schweinsteiger said.

Germany still may not have the flair of Brazil, but Loew has been insisting on an attacking style. His predecessor, Juergen Klinsmann, began the trend and Loew has further developed it, intentionally bringing up young players with a certain profile and dropping some veterans.

The Germans will not neglect the qualities that have made them a soccer power, though. This team will be just as fit as any previous and ready to run any opponent into the ground.

"They show a lot of joy in their game," coach Joachim Loew said. "They are always moving and they are very enthusiastic."