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Race against time

Germans cross fingers for Schweinsteiger

Describing Bastian Schweinsteiger as the “heart and motor” of his Germany team, coach Joachim Löw underlined the Bayern man’s immense importance to his country. Dr Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt and his team are working round the clock to get the midfielder fit for Sunday’s clash with England. “We hope it works out,” team manager Oliver Bierhoff said on Saturday.

The clash at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein kicks off at 4 pm, but there are no guarantees that the player’s thigh injury will have cleared by then. The 25-year-old went jogging on Friday, “observed by our medics,” Bierhoff added.

Midfield organiser

Schweinsteiger completed a fitness test at Germany’s final pre-match training session on Saturday afternoon, including tackling and sprints. “90 percent fitness won’t be enough,” Löw announced: “We need players who can invest everything in the match.”

The Bayern man fills a crucial role in central midfield, linking defence and attack, spending more time than any other player on the ball, distributing the ball out wide, and organising his own defensive line. He will need complete fitness in order to deal with the threat posed by world-class England men Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

Kroos on standby

“I do a lot of work in defence,” Schweinsteiger himself pointed out. The player’s absence would be a serious blow to Löw and his staff. “The coach hasn’t settled on a replacement,” advised Bierhoff. The pairing of Toni Kroos (20) and Sami Khedira (23) played a half of a 3-1 warm-up win over Hungary, but it would be risky against the considerably more powerful English.

Löw insisted he would have no problem entrusting Kroos with the responsibility. The player, who returns to Bayern this summer after a spell on loan with Leverkusen, stood in for Schweinsteiger at the end of last week’s 1-0 victory over Ghana. “If Schweini’s not fit, I’m ready,” Kroos insisted. The starlet is at his best going forward, accepting he is “not your classic ball-winner.” Löw repeated his faith in the player: “He has great technical ability.”