Klinsmann to pick roster after last tuneup game against United States team

Germany captain Michael Ballack says Wednesday's friendly against the United States is as important as a tournament match.

Germany is eager to restore some respect after losing 4-1 in Italy three weeks ago but it is also the final tuneup match before coach Juergen Klinsmann picks his World Cup squad.

"It's a very important game for us," Ballack said Tuesday. "It's a decisive game for our confidence, for the mood in the team."

Klinsmann's youthful squad has been under relentless criticism since losing to Italy , and for some players it could be make-or-break on Wednesday.

"Like all players, I noted the reactions after the game in Italy ," Ballack said. "Now we have the opportunity to show our response, to play as a unit; to show that we are a different team, that the game in Italy was not our real face.

"We've only had friendlies in the past two years, but we can compare tomorrow's game to a qualifying or a first-round match. So I find that this may not be a bad situation to deal with the pressure.

"It's normal to get criticized after a bad game, and our young team has not often been under this kind of pressure."

With only 80 days remaining until Germany kicks off the World Cup against Costa Rica , Klinsmann has no other scheduled games until he submits his 23-man roster on May 15.

But he will have matches against Japan and Colombia in the final two weeks before the June 9-July 9 World Cup to improve team cohesion.

Assistant coach Joachim Loew said Germany would play with a formation that allows Ballack to get involved offensively.

"We want to put them under pressure," Loew said. "Although they ( United States ) have developed greatly in recent years, we think they make mistakes under pressure."

Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said the match before a capacity 70,000-strong Westfalen stadium in Dortmund was an opportunity to respond to the criticism.

"We are not saying we are going to run them into the ground, but we have to get our credit back," Kahn said. "You can notice the tension in the team, it's good to have some pressure before the game."

Even though the U.S. team will be missing several European-based players, Ballack said it won't be an easy match.

"When we played them at the 2002 World Cup, it was a game we pulled by the skin of our teeth, we were lucky," said Ballack, who scored the winning goal that put Germany into the semifinals. "They've climbed up the rankings and no one has noticed. Sometimes they are underestimated by the public."

The Americans which are undefeated in their last seven games are No. 5 in FIFA rankings, while three-time World Cup champion Germany has slipped to No. 22.

"We'll face a very good U.S. team that's played together a lot and that has a good run behind it," Ballack said.

While the Americans are under-strength, Germany will also be missing some starters. Midfielders Sebastian Deisler and Torsten Frings are out injured, while central defender Robert Huth has club commitments with Chelsea . Deisler is out of the World Cup after injuring his knee.

Germany has an impressive record in Dortmund with 11 wins and one draw.

"We have good memories of the stadium, one of the best in Germany ," Ballack said, reports the AP.

D.M.