Germans keep a stiff upper lip

BERLIN - Germany are eyeing the World Cup semifinals despite the loss of five players to injury, including captain Michael Ballack, new skipper Philipp Lahm said yesterday.

BERLIN - Germany are eyeing the World Cup semifinals despite the loss of five players to injury, including captain Michael Ballack, new skipper Philipp Lahm said yesterday.

Defender Heiko Westermann became the latest victim for the three-time World Cup winners when he was injured in stoppage time during their 3-0 win against Hungary on Saturday.

Christian Traesch also dropped out of the 27-man squad after starting keeper Rene Adler and midfielder Simon Rolfes were ruled out.

"The team cannot be allowed to be influenced by these injuries," Lahm, named as captain only last week, told reporters at their training base in northern Italy.

"The big aim is the semifinals but you first have to deal with the group stage. We want to get into the semis and the team does indeed dream of more than that," he said.

Germany have been drawn in Group D alongside Ghana, Serbia and Australia for the June 11-July 11 tournament.

"We have a big tournament ahead of us and we know we have a good team. Those leading players in the squad must make sure no doubts surface," Lahm said. "The atmosphere here is extremely good. With so many younger players in the team, they seem to bring in some fresh air."

Coach Joachim Loew, who has ruled out any new call-ups, has to reshuffle his midfield. Lahm, who plays at right-back for Bayern Munich, said he would be uncomfortable if he had to switch to a defensive midfield role. - Reuters

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