Germany starts Euro qualifying campaign with World Cup team

Coach Joachim Loew stuck with Germany's World Cup team Thursday as he named his 20 player-squad for two Euro 2008 qualifiers.

The only changes to the team that reached the World Cup semifinals were in defense, where Hertha Berlin's Malik Fathi and Mainz 05's Manuel Friedrich replaced injured regulars. Both had previous callups.

Germany opens its European Championship qualifying campaign on Sept. 2 against Ireland and plays San Marino four days later.

"This early in the season, when only two Bundesliga rounds have been played, we named players we trust," Loew said. "A lot of players are waiting for their chance and we expect to call them up later."

Captain Michael Ballack and defender Christoph Metzelder are in the squad. Loew said Ballack will likely play over the weekend for Chelsea after a hip injury, while Metzelder hopes to rejoin Borussia Dortmund's training next week after fighting a knee problem.

Metzelder's recovery would help stabilize the defense, since Hannover's Per Mertesacker is injured, along with key reserves Robert Huth of Chelsea and Jens Nowotny of Dynamo Zagreb, the AP says.

Forward Lukas Podolski has been a reserve so far at Bayern Munich, while Thomas Hitzlsperger also is a backup on VfB Stuttgart. Loew said that doesn't bother him.

"We knew beforehand it would be hard for some players to be ready for the new season, considering the strain of the World Cup," Loew said.

Loew succeeded the popular Juergen Klinsmann and made his debut with a 3-0 win against Sweden on Aug. 16. He said the team's goal is to win Euro 2008.

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