Appiano (Italy), May 28 (DPA) Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm will be the youngest-ever German World Cup captain when he leads the national team at the World Cup beginning next month in South Africa.
As expected, coach Joachim Loew Friday gave the captaincy to 26-year-old Lahm who replaces injured Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack.
There were also no surprises in goal where Loew has made Schalke’s Manuel Neuer his first-choice keeper for the tournament.
At 24, Neuer will be the third youngest Germany goalkeeper at a World Cup after Wolfgang Fahrian, who was 20 in 1962 in Chile, and Bodo Illgner, who was a World Cup winner in 1990 at 23.
Neuer will earn only his fourth cap when he plays against Hungary in a friendly in Budapest Saturday. Only Fahrian had fewer caps going into a World Cup finals.
Lahm, who has 64 caps, is vice-captain at Bayern and will be going into his fourth major international tournament following two European Championships and the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
‘He has always been a player who thinks about the game and gives his opinion clearly. His feedback is open and honest,’ Loew said at the team’s training camp in northern Italy.
Bayern’s Bastian Schweinsteiger was appointed vice-captain, Loew preferring the midfielder to his club team-mate Miroslav Klose who has spent much of the season with the Bundesliga champions as a substitute.
However Klose Klose will captain the side against Hungary as both Lahm and Schweinsteiger – along with Bayern’s Thomas Mueller and keeper Hans-Joerg Butt – will be rested for the match.
Schweinsteiger will also be asked to fill Ballack’s playing role in central midfield at the World Cup, Loew said.
Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Klose, along with defenders Arne Friedrich and Per Mertesacker form the players’ ‘team council.’
‘After the loss of Ballack the team council will have a more important role to play than in the past because we want the team to share the responsibility on many shoulders,’ Loew said.
Neuer finds himself number one keeper after beginning the season as third choice. After the suicide of Hanover’s Robert Enke in November, the job went to Bayer Leverkusen’s Rene Adler who had impressed in World Cup qualifiers.
However a fractured rib towards the end of the season meant Adler had to pull out, and Loew then called up the experienced Butt following an impressive season with Bayern.
Butt, 36, will have to make do with the position of third choice, with Tim Wiese of Werder Bremen now chosen as deputy.
Following the match in Hungary, Germany have a friendly in Frankurt against Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 3 before leaving for South Africa.
The Hungary match is Germany’s last test before Loew reduces his provisional squad, now down to 25, to the final 23. Germany are up against Australia, Serbia and Ghana in their group at the tournament.