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Eyes on South Africa

Sixteen FCB stars on international duty

The six coaching staff almost outnumbered the seven players at the Säbener Strasse on Monday – and if Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (no match) and Daniel van Buyten (injury) had not remained in Munich, the ratio would have been more than one-to-one. Even by Bayern standards, the squad during an international break has rarely been this decimated, as 16 stars are away from the club this week.

For nine of the FCB contingent, the first international friendly of the new year is all about the build-up to the World Cup. It is also the last match before squads for the finals are named in May, and therefore a final opportunity to put forward a case for a seat on the plane to the south of Africa.

Allianz Arena showdown

“It’s an important test. We’re all fighting for a place at the World Cup,” said Philipp Lahm. The full-back is in the Germany squad together with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose and Thomas Müller, who is set for his senior debut on Wednesday against Argentina, themselves with an FCB representative in Martin Demichelis.

With half-a-dozen Munich men on display, it is fitting that the match takes place at the Allianz Arena, in the sixth Germany international to be staged at the magnificent stadium. “It’ll definitely be a spectacular,” commented visiting boss Diego Maradona. The teams last met in Berlin in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals, Germany winning 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra-time.

Ribéry poised for comeback

It could well be a tight encounter in Paris too, where France and Franck Ribéry take on European champions Spain. Ribéry returns to national team duty for the first time since September last year. “He’s come back to us with a lot of confidence and a desire to go for it, which is good for the whole team,” related striker Djibril Cissé.