World Cup Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, June 13, 2010 (All times Eastern)

Germany (0-0-0) vs. Australia (0-0-0), 2:30 p.m.

Durban, South Africa (Sports Network) - Germany opens the World Cup on Sunday, and despite a rash of injuries prior to the tournament, coach Joachim Loew is confident the three-time winners are still a threat.

Germany has advanced to the final in seven of the last 14 tournaments, winning in 1954, 1970 and 1990.

With captain Michael Ballack, Christian Trasch, and versatile Heiko Westermann lost to injury in the month before the tournament, Loew's final 23-man roster basically picked itself.

Germany still features plenty of talent, and with expectations lowered because of the injuries - goalie Rene Adler and Simon Rolfes were ruled out previously - there is less pressure to capture a fourth title.

Loew, an assistant in 2006 when Germany finish third, debuts at the World Cup against Australia at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Loew is no stranger to success on the international level, having led Germany to second in Euro 2008.

The Germans followed with an impressive qualifying campaign, winning eight of its 10 matches and drawing the other two.

Germany proved in its last World Cup warm-up match, a 3-1 victory over Bosnia- Herzegovina, it is ready for the World Cup without its injured players.

"We have young players, who have very good skills," Loew said. "Our potential is high. That's why I'm positive that we can play a good tournament.

"I have absolute confidence in my team."

With Ballack out, Schweinsteiger becomes the most important player for Germany as the new midfield leader. He will play next to Sami Khedira in midfield, and the duo was impressive against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Loew has handed the No. 1 goalkeeper spot to Manuel Neuer, who has huge shoes to fill following Oliver Kahn in 2002 when Germany was second and Jens Lehmann in 2006.

Australia lost its last warm-up match 3-1 to the U.S., but could challenge for a knockout-round spot in Group D. Midfielder Tim Cahill leads a good Socceroos squad, but points won't come easy in a group also including Ghana and Serbia.

06/12 12:50:41 ET