Germany can reach World Cup semis: Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer believes Germany's young team can reach the World Cup semifinals.

Franz Beckenbauer believes Germany's young team can reach the World Cup semifinals.

The absence of injured captain Michael Ballack does not have to be a disadvantage, Beckenbauer said, adding that the star-free squad is very balanced.

"I am positive, the Germans are among the favourites," Beckenbauer said after visiting the team's base outside Pretoria on Wednesday. "With a bit of luck I expect them in the semifinals."

Beckenbauer won the World Cup as captain and player in 1974 and was the coach of the German team when it won the last of its three world titles in 1990.

The Germans, who were runners-up in 2002 and semifinalists four years ago at home, have arrived with their second youngest World Cup team ever, with the average age just under 25. Ballack and four other players have been ruled out with injuries.

"Ballack was the leader, captain, the head of the team and Germany will be missing him. But the team is very balanced and it doesn't have to be a disadvantage. If they go on as they have so far, they don't need a big star," Beckenbauer said.

Beckenbauer said he was encouraged by Germany's last two tuneup games, a 3-0 win in Hungary and a 3-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"They showed a lot of joy on the field, everybody wanted the ball," he said.

Traditionally a strong tournament team, Germany's potential this time is somewhat of a mystery because of its inexperience.

Coach Joachim Loew said the team was well prepared and looking forward to tackle Australia in its Group D opener on Sunday in Durban.

"We are full of enthusiasm and anticipation. We've done everything that we could and we have a good feeling," Loew said.

"After the injury setbacks, we put them behind us and looked ahead. I can see a lot of enthusiasm in training and that the team has been together for a while.

"We can play at high pace, we have more movement. Maybe the players have not much experience but they are willing to learn."

But Loew said it was hard to predict how the young players will respond to pressure.

"Experienced players can make mistakes too. You cannot expect anyone to go through the tournament without making a mistake.

"We want to be able to outplay opponents. We'll go in with the confidence that we can win and we will not wait for something to happen, we will try to create," Loew said.

The team includes six players who won the European under-21 title last year and Loew said their peak may still be two or three years away.

"They are very capable of developing. I will be relaxed during the tournament because I know we did everything that could have been done to prepare well," Loew said.