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MUNICH - For two of the brightest talents in German football, being jeered by their home fans at Munich's Allianz Arena was a bitter pill to swallow.
When below-par Germany were beaten 3-0 by the Czech Republic in their Euro 2008 qualifier on October 17, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and striker Lukas Podolski had the uncomfortable experience of being booed in their own stadium.
It was a far cry from 16 months before when the pair were heralded as national heroes after world-class performances at the same venue.
Schweinsteiger shone and Podolski scored both goals in Munich as Germany beat Sweden 2-0 to reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
Schweinsteiger went on to score twice in Germany's 3-1 win over Portugal to claim third place and Podolski was voted young player of the tournament.
The pair had the world at their feet.
But the present is not so rosy as Karel Brueckner's Czech side ripped apart Germany as the home side produced a lacklustre performance.
Germany were poor in Munich and the fans let them know it.
"Of course, I can understand the whistles from the fans. We played badly and the people expressed their anger," said the 22-year-old Podolski. But his dream World Cup debut has been followed by a Bundesliga nightmare as he scored just four goals in 22 appearances for his new side Bayern Munich last season.
Podolski is now third choice striker at Bayern behind Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose.
At best, Podolski is now fourth-choice striker in the national set up behind Kevin Kuranyi, Miroslav Klose, and Mario Gomez.
"I am sure things will improve for me soon," said Podolski, whose seven goals still put him as Germany's top scorer in Euro 2008 qualification.
"I will concentrate on winning my first-team place, I have to work hard at training."
Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld would not have been impressed with Podolski's single shot at goal in the full 90 minutes against the Czechs.
But Schweinsteieger and Podolski are part of Germany head coach Joachim Loew's long-term plans as he grooms his side for next summer's Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria.
Schweinsteiger has been given a more creative role by Loew, while team manager Oliver Bierhoff backed Podolski, declaring his dip in form as only temporary.
"He knew that all eyes were on him, which can lead to a tensing up. His form will improve."
With Germany tipped as favourites to lift the European title, the Bayern pair are planning to turn fans' jeers to cheers next June. - Sapa-AP