Germany's Loew expecting a rough ride from rivals

BERLIN, May 18, 2010 (AFP) - Germany may have the pedigree of having won three World Cup titles, but Joachim Loew's side will not have an easy ride against Australia, Ghana and Serbia in Group D.

Germany dominated their qualifying group on the road to South Africa, humbling Russia home and away, but each of their Group D rivals also finished top of their qualifying groups.

Having reached the final of Euro 2008, Germany have largely been untested since losing 1-0 to Spain in the final nearly two years ago, but have a balance of promising talent and seasoned veterans even without the injured Michael Ballack.

Germany's head coach Joachim Loew addresses a press conference at the Verdura Golf and Spa resort, near Sciacca May 17, 2010, following the announcement that Germany's captain Michael Ballack will not take part in the World Cup campaign. AFP photo

Germany tend to cope well with the pressure of the knock-out stages and have won all four penalty shoot-outs they faced at previous World Cups.

But Loew is taking nothing for granted and his side will be fully prepared.

"I wouldn't say we were too lucky with the draw," said Loew, whose side face Australia in their opening game on June 13 in Durban.

"It's not going to be an easy section, but it's certainly not beyond us.

"Serbia were fantastic in qualifying and they have some extremely good players, likewise we will have to be careful against Australia.

"Ghana are going to very difficult to play against due to their physical strength and in Michael Essien they have a real superstar."

Having been the only African side to reach the knock-out rounds of the last World Cup on their tournament debut, Ghana are arguably Germany's biggest rivals in the group.

Under coach Milovan Rajevac, the Black Stars easily navigated the final round of African qualification and their midfield trio of Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah make them a match for anyone.

"Germany are a quality team, Serbia too, but I'm convinced we can match them," said coach Rajevac.

"For me, Germany are the best team in Europe. I'm confident we can make it into the second round."

The group's dark horses are Serbia who beat France to pole position in their qualifying pool and thrashed Romania 5-0 to reach the finals.

They have some quality players in Nemanja Vidic, Dejan Stankovic and Milan Jovanovic and will not be easy to beat.

"It's going to be a really interesting group because each team has a very different playing style," said Serbia coach Radomir Antic.

"My team is very young, physically and technically strong and without a doubt the best Serbian team there has ever been."

Australia will be looking to build on their impressive performance from four years ago, but will not be the surprise package they were.

At Germany 2006, Australia finishing second in their group behind Brazil and ahead of Croatia and Japan.

It took a penalty deep into injury-time for Italy to beat Guus Hiddink's side in the Last 16 on their way to winning the final.

Now under Dutchman, Pim Verbeek, Australia have the chance to claim a major scalp in their opening game against Germany.

"You have to say Germany are the favourites to win the group," said Verbeek.

"They're extremely strong, very experienced and one of the best sides in the world.

"Nonetheless, we'll be doing everything we can to reach the next round. We did well in 2006, but now we need to concentrate on 2010.

"The players are four years older now and so they have four years more experience."

Favourites - Germany

Fancied - Australia and Ghana

Underdogs - Serbia

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