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Since 1st March, 1999
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Klinsmann eyes winning start even without Ballack
- German captain ruled out of opener
Germany players warm up in Munich on Thursday. (Reuters)

Munich: Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann says the World Cup hosts are more than capable of defeating Costa Rica in Friday’s opener even without their injured captain Michael Ballack.

Ballack has been ruled out of the game with a calf injury but, while acknowledging the importance of his skipper, Klinsmann is confident his team still have the ammunition to gun down Costa Rica.

“It seems that Michael Ballack can not play against Costa Rica,” Klinsmann said at a press conference on Thursday. “Of course we wanted him on board as he is our captain and leader but it is important that he recovers.

“There’s always someone who can jump in. It is not a problem as we have different options with (Tim) Borowski and (Sebastian) Kehl.”

Ballack, who also missed the final match of the last World Cup because of suspension, suffered a slight strain to his right calf during Germany’s 3-0 win over Colombia in a warm-up match on June 2.

The 29-year-old midfielder did not believe it to be serious at the time and alarm bells only started ringing when he was unable to train with the squad on Monday.

He did return to full training on Wednesday but had to drop out after just 30 minutes.

Costa Rica are expected to be lambs to the slaughter but Germany should beware as opening World Cup games can spring surprises ' just ask France.

Four years ago the defending champions opened the tournament against African side Senegal and lost 0-1.

In contrast, Germany started the 2002 World Cup with an 8-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia as they surged to the final where Brazil won 2-0.

Miroslav Klose scored a hattrick in that win over the Saudis and will hope for a repeat against Costa Rica on Friday when he celebrates his 28th birthday.

“We will be pumped up from the first whistle and play at a high tempo,” he declared.

It is also a special game for goalkeeper Jens Lehmann who will make his World Cup debut at the age of 36. “I have waited a long time for this and cannot wait to get out there,” Lehmann said.

Arsenal custodian Lehmann was deputy to Oliver Kahn at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups but now it is Kahn’s turn to play second fiddle.It will be particularly painful for the Bayern Munich man as the game is being played on his home ground.

Costa Rica, playing in their third World Cup, are expected to roll over against three-time winners Paolo Wanchope believes his team is capable of pulling off a major shock.

“I don’t see any problem with Costa Rica being able to beat Germany,” said Wanchope, his country’s all-time top-scorer with 43 goals.

“Regardless of it being Germany that we’re up against, you just have to go out there and win the game. Our way of doing things is to try to play good, attractive football.”

A minute’s silence in memory of football figures who have died in the past year will be held before Friday's opening World Cup match between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich.


Germany: 1-Jens Lehmann; 3-Arne Friedrich, 21-Christoph Metzelder, 17-Per Mertesacker, 16-Phillip Lahm; 18-Tim Borowski/5-Sebastian Kehl; 19-Bernd Schneider, 8-Torsten Frings, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger; 20-Lukas Podolski, 11-Miroslav Klose

Costa Rica ' 18-Jose Francisco Porras; 4-Michael Umana, 3-Luis Marin, 12-Leonardo Gonzalez; 20-Douglas Sequeira, 5-Gilberto Martinez, 8-Mauricio Solis, 10-Walter Centeno, 6-Danny Fonseca; 11-Ronald Gomez, 9-Paulo Wanchope.

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