Voeller prays Deisler won't join casualties

 

Germany: once automatic World Cup favourites, Germany head for this month's finals with less expectations than in previous years.

Saturday's 6-2 thrashing of a weak Austrian team in the triple world champions' last test would have provided a welcome morale boost had Sebastian Deisler not sustained a knee injury that might rule him out of the tournament.

The 22-year-old midfielder, whose creative skills play a key role in Germany coach Rudi Voeller's plans, hurt his troublesome right knee, which was operated on last October, and was expecting results of medical tests which will determine whether he can remain in the squad.

This is the latest in a series of blows for Voeller, who has already lost three valued players for the World Cup in central defenders Jens Nowotny and Christian Woerns and midfielder Mehmet Scholl.

Germany, drawn with Cameroon, the Republic of Ireland and Saudi Arabia in World Cup group E, will fly out to their base in Japan on Wednesday with many questions unanswered.

"We're in a difficult situation but it's the same for everybody," said Voeller. "Even the favourites have their problems. Look what happened to France.

"I believe in the team I have because I know they have character," said Voeller, who has managed to put an end to the constant squabbling that poisoned the atmosphere at the Germany camp at Euro 2000.

Still, he warned not to expect too much from the convalescent Germans, who might have to wait until the following World Cup on home soil to restore their pride. "Our minimal goal remains to reach the knock-out stage and I firmly believe we can do it," he said.

Cameroon: The African Nations champions named their squad on Saturday less than 24 hours after a 2-1 defeat by Denmark brought the African champions sharply down to earth.

German coach Winfried Schafer stuck largely with the squad which successfully retained the African Nations Cup in February in Mali. Friday's defeat ended an unbeaten run lasting since before the Nations Cup and gave the team a reality check as they headed for Asia on Saturday.

After Friday's loss Shafer said his team would be taking no chances against the weaker opponents in the group. "Any one who under-rates Ireland will be heading for the grave," he told state radio after the match.

Still, Shafer's confidence seemed intact. "I just hope that by the time Cameroon meets Germany (Cameroon's third match) the two teams must have already won their tickets for the second round."

Of the Nations Cup veterans only defender Jean Dika Dika, who plays with Portuguese side Unaio Lamas, was left out with a knee injury. He is replaced by Pierre Njanka Beaka of, who missed the Nations Cup through injury injury.

The other addition is striker Joseph Desire Job of French club Metz.

GOALKEEPERS: Boukar (Samsunspor), Songo'o (Metz), Kameni (Juventus).

DEFENDERS: Song (FC Cologne, capt), Nkongo (Extremadura), Mettomo (Manchester City), Nlend (Bologna), Beaka (Portsmouth).

MIDFIELDERS: Tchato (Montpellier), Alnoudji (Caykur Rizespor), Djemba (Nantes), Foe (Lyon), Lauren (Arsenal, England), Cyrille Ndo (Al Khalees, Saudi Arabia), Kome (Numancia), GeremI (Real Madrid), Olembe (Marseille), Epalle (Panahaiki).

FORWARDS: Samuel Eto'o Fils (Real Mallorca, Spain), Mboma (Sunderland), Ndiefi (Sedan), Suffo (Numancia), Job (Metz).