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Ribery forced to withdraw

Thirteen Bayern stars on international duty

The Säbener Strasse training ground will be a relatively empty place for the next ten days, as 13 Bayern stars are away representing their countries. Most are engaged in the final showdown for places at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while a few contest friendlies at senior and U-21 level. has checked out the international contingent’s travel and match commitments.

In their last two qualifying fixtures, Munich quartet Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez aim to help Germany retain top spot in Group 4 and definitively book a place at next summer’s finals. The Germans require at least a point in Moscow on Saturday against chief pursuers Russia, followed by a win against Finland in Hamburg on Wednesday.

Play-offs offer final chance

On the Tuesday and Friday, shooting stars Holger Badstuber and Thomas Müller will also report for duty with Germany, as the pair have been called up to coach Rainer Adrion’s 23-strong U-21 squad for friendlies, first against Slovenia in Fürth, and four days later against Israel in Frankfurt.

Back among the seniors, Munich’s Dutch contingent are already safely through to the finals, and the Germans’ fate is still in their own hands, but the rest of Bayern’s overseas players can no longer qualify under their own steam, and are realistically aiming for a berth in the play-offs as one of the eight best group runners-up. In Group 7, France are four points adrift of leaders Serbia, and must beat the Faeroe Islands in Guingamp on Saturday and Austria in Paris on Wednesday, to keep alive their outside chance of top spot, and ensure they maintain their grip on second place.

Ribéry sidelined

However, the French are without Franck Ribéry for the crunch fixtures. The 25-year-old, who limped out of Bayern’s goalless draw with Köln at half-time on Saturday, withdrew from the French squad on Monday afternoon and left the team training base in Clairefontaine. The winger is suffering from an inflamed tendon in his left knee, the French FA announced on its homepage.

The situation is even more problematic for Hamit Altintop and Turkey, who lie third in Group 5 on 12 points. The Turks travel to Brussels on Saturday to face Daniel van Buyten and Belgium, who are out of the running on just seven points. Four days later, Turkey are at home to Armenia in Bursa, with the Belgians facing Estonia in Tallin. European champions Spain have already won the section with maximum points from eight games, with Bosnia-Herzegovina (16 points) favourites to claim second place.

Long-distance showdown for second

In Group 6, where England have emulated Spain and won the group on 24 points, Croatia pair Ivica Olic and Danijel Pranjic are up against the Ukraine and Anatoly Tymoshchuk for the runners-up spot. The Croats lie second on 17 points, two clear of the Ukrainians, but Tymoshchuk and his men have a game in hand. Croatia travel to Qatar for a friendly on 8 October, before completing their qualification programme in Kazakhstan on 14 October. Ukraine take on England in Dnipropetrovsk on Saturday, and round off their campaign away to last-placed Andorra four days later.

Over in South America, Argentina coach Diego Maradona has responded to the crisis engulfing the two-time winners, who are in grave danger of missing out on the 2010 finals, by summoning Martin Demichelis for the last two qualifiers, even though the Bayern man has only just recovered from injury. The Albiceleste meet tail-enders Peru in Buenos Aires on Saturday, before travelling to Montevideo for a crunch showdown with bogey opponents Uruguay in midweek. Argentina, currently only fifth in the table, effectively need a maximum six points to remain in with a shout of a direct qualifying berth.

Braafheid Down Under

Of all the Bayern players, left-back Edson Braafheid will clock up the most air miles this week. The Netherlands, with all uncertainty over their place at next summer’s finals out of the way, travel halfway round the world to face fellow finalists Australia in Sydney.