Philipp Lahm named German captain
Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm was named captain of Germany's World Cup team Friday, becoming the youngest in national team history to lead the squad on the field.
Lahm will take the place of Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack, who will miss the tournament in South Africa because of an ankle injury, coach Joachim Loew said. The 26-year-old Lahm has played 64 games for Germany, and this year's tournament will be in his second World Cup.
Manuel Neuer of Schalke has been confirmed as the starting goalkeeper, in place of Rene Adler, who is also missing the tournament due to a broken rib.
Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger will be Lahm's deputy and will take over Ballack's job in defensive midfielder. Schweinsteiger played that role this season for Bayern, helping his team win the domestic double and reach the final of the Champions League.
"They both had an excellent season with Bayern and they have shown that they can take responsibility," Loew said at the German training camp in northern Italy. "They have had fundamental and important roles in the national team in the past."
Loew passed over striker Miroslav Klose, whose 94 games and 48 goals for Germany also made him a leading candidate for captain. The 31-year-old Klose has spent most of the past season on the bench for Bayern and scored only three goals.
By not choosing Klose to be his captain, Loew may have indicated that Klose will not be in the starting 11.
The 24-year-old Neuer is the youngest of Loew's three goalkeepers, none of whom have much experience at national team level. Neuer has three games for Germany, Tim Wiese of Werder Bremen two and Joerg Butt of Bayern Munich, the veteran who turned 36 on Friday, also has three. Butt was third-choice goalkeeper at the 2002 World Cup.
Neuer's only full game for Germany was the 3-0 win over Malta two weeks ago. The 28-year-old Wiese was a second-half substitute in both previous appearances. Butt also came in as a substitute in all three of his games.
Lahm leads one of the youngest teams the three-time champion has even sent to the World Cup — seven players were on the team that won the European under-21 title last season.
Loew still has to cut two players from the provisional squad and said he would do so shortly before the June 1 deadline.
The coach spoke shortly before the team's departure for Budapest, where it will play a friendly against Hungary on Saturday.
Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Butt and Thomas Mueller won't be traveling with the team because Loew wanted to give them more rest after a long season with Bayern.
"I want them to stay in their good form and I think they need a few more days to rest," Loew said.
Klose will be the captain in Saturday's game.
The Germans will return to their base in south Tirol, a German-speaking area in northern Italy, before going home to face Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 3 in Frankfurt in their last World Cup warm-up game before traveling to South Africa.