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Injury worries for Germany ahead of World Cup

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NESHA STARCEVIC | April 11, 2014 05:44 AM EST | AP


FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Despite being in charge of one of the top favorites at the World Cup, Germany coach Joachim Loew is deeply worried.

He is worried about the long travel and jet lag; worried that Germany's headquarters in Brazil are still far from completed; worried about the different kickoff times and the heat; but most of all, worried about the fitness of some of his top players.

Germany has been hit by a series of serious injuries and among the victims are some of the most experienced players on a young side.

"Three months before the World Cup we have eight, nine players who are out of rhythm, who have been injured for a long time. I am not sure that all will be back in time for the World Cup," Loew said. "That gives me headaches. I know that at the World Cup you need players who are strong physically."

In Germany's only friendly so far this year, Loew's team labored to a lackluster 1-0 win over Chile. With many players sidelined, Loew called up four newcomers, including defender Shkodran Mustafi, who plays for Sampdoria and is hardly known in Germany.

Loew is unlikely to pull another surprise like that when he announces his World Cup squad, but he has said that only healthy players will be invited.

"We need players who are physically fit and who can deal with the conditions in Brazil: the heat, long travel, unusual kickoff times, time difference," Loew said.

That means that Germany could be without such stars as Sami Khedira of Real Madrid, Mario Gomez of Fiorentina, Miroslav Klose of Lazio and Ilkay Gundogan of Borussia Dortmund.

Khedira has not played since tearing knee ligaments in November and Gundogan has sat out virtually the entire season because of back problems, leaving Germany's midfield without two key players. Gomez missed five months and then re-injured his left knee, while Klose, the veteran at 35, has been set back by various injuries. That means Germany could be without its only two strikers.

Still, Loew has plenty of talent at his disposal, but he is under pressure from the public to finally return from a major tournament with a title. Germany has not won a major title since the 1996 European Championship, and the last of its three World Cup victories came in 1990.

Germany played some of the most entertaining football at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but lost in the semifinals to Spain. Two years later, Germany lost in the semifinals of Euro 2012 to Italy.

There was also an inexplicable 4-4 draw against Sweden in a World Cup qualifier when Germany squandered a 4-0 lead.

Thomas Mueller, one of the top scorers at the 2010 World Cup with five goals, leaves no doubt about Germany's ambition despite the injury setbacks.

"I am going to Brazil with one goal, and that's to win the title. Clearly," Mueller said. "And that's how the whole team feels."