By Paul Kennedy
Germany was one of only four teams to win all three group games at the 2006 World Cup -- its first clean sweep in the first stage since 1970 -- but that will be all forgottten if it doesn't make a long run in the tournament.
Germany faces a tough test Saturday against Sweden in Munich, but Coach Juergen Klinsmann is confident that Germany will win.
"We have a lot of respect for Sweden, they've got some great players in their ranks," he said. "But we think we'll be able to beat Sweden. Even if it goes 120 minutes, we're hopeful and confident that we'll be in better shape than they are. Confidence is our strength," he added. "I don't have any feeling that our younger players are nervous or thinking too much.
Klinsmann looked beyond the Sweden game and said it would be a disaster if Germany doesn't make the final four.
"Our expectations as a soccer nation don't stop in the round of 16 or at the quarterfinal stage," Klinsmann says. "There's simply no way for that, especially at a World Cup in your home country. I believe the team is motivated to the max. They know what they're capable of doing. After that, we've got the next stage. I feel great. The mood is fantastic."
If Germany gets past Sweden, it will stay in Munich and face the winner of the Argentina-Mexico game next Friday.
IN AND OUT.
Star Zlatan Ibrahimovic should lead Sweden's attack after being hindered by a groin strain picked up in Sweden's second game and sitting out the England game. Christoph Metzelder will return to the middle of the German backline after being rested in the Ecuador game.
Germany has won two of three World Cup meetings against Sweden, but Sweden leads the overall series with 13 wins, 12 losses and six ties in 31 games. Host Sweden's 3-1 win over defending champion West Germany in the semifinals of the 1958 World Cup prompted the "Cold War," as outraged Germans boycotted Scandinavian products. In 1974, host West Germany's 4-2 victory over Sweden in Duesseldorf was one of the best games of the tournament.
Germany (4-4-2): 1-Jens Lehmann; 3-Arne Friedrich, 21-Christoph Metzelder, 17-Per Mertesacker, 16-Philipp Lahm; 19-Bernd Schneider, 8-Torsten Frings, 13-Michael Ballack, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger; 20-Lukas Podolski, 11-Miroslav Klose.
Sweden (4-4-2):1-Andreas Isaksson; 3-Olof Mellberg, 4-Teddy Lucic, 5-Erik Edman, 7-Niclas Alexandersson; 6-Tobias Linderoth, 9-Fredrik Ljungberg, 21-Christian Wilhelmsson, 16-Kim Kallstrom; 20-Marcus Allback, 11-Henrik Larsson.
Referee: Carlos Simon (Brazil).
ABC, Live, 11 am ET.
Univision, Live, 11 am ET.
Mexico's backs to the wall
Mexico faces a fourth straight exit from the World Cup in the round of 16 if it doesn't beat Argentina Saturday in Leipzig's Zentralstadion.
Four years ago, the Tri entered the knockout phase on a roll after winning its group, but it fell to the USA, 2-0, in a memorable CONCACAF showdown.
This time, Mexico began the World Cup full of confidence but struggled in the first round. After beating Iran, 3-1, in its opening game, Mexico tied Angola, 0-0, and lost to Group D winner Portugal, 2-1.
"We will continue to insist on working on our finishing," Mexico's Argentine coach, Ricardo La Volpe, said after the Portugal game.
Much was made of Argentina's explosive attack in its first two games, but Argentina was also effective in shutting down its opponents. It allowed only one goal in three games in what was billed, before the tournament, the Group of Death.
IN AND OUT.
Fabricio Coloccini replaces right back Nicolas Burdisso, injured against the Netherlands, at right back for Argentina. Brazilian-born Antonio Naelson "Zinha" should replace the suspended Luis Perez for Mexico.
Their only World Cup meeting came in 1930 when Argentina won, 6-3, in the group stage. In their most recent meeting in an official competition, Argentina beat Mexico on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the 2005 Confederations Cup in Mexico.
Argentina (4-4-2): 1-Roberto Abbondanzieri; 4-Fabricio Coloccini, 2-Roberto Ayala, 6-Gabriel Heinze, 3-Juan Pablo Sorin; 18-Maxi Rodriguez, 8-Javier Mascherano, 5-Esteban Cambiasso, 10-Juan Roman Riquelme; 7-Javier Saviola, 9-Hernan Crespo.
Mexico (5-3-2): 1-Oswaldo Sanchez; 16-Mario Mendez, 4-Rafael Marquez, 5-Ricardo Osorio, 3-Carlos Salcido, 14-Gonzalo Pineda; 6-Gerardo Torrado, 7-Antonio Naelson "Zinha", 8-Pavel Pardo; 9-Jared Borgetti, 17-Jose Francisco Fonseca.
Referee:Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).
ESPN, Live, 3 pm ET.
Univision, Live, 3 pm ET.
De Rossi handed four-game suspension
Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossiwas suspended for four matches after being red carded for elbowing U.S. striker Brian McBride in last Saturday's Group E game.
Italian soccer federation spokesman Antonello Valentini said the ban would have been five games but for the letter of apology De Rossi wrote to FIFA.
"If you make a mistake it is right that you pay," said Gianclarlo Abete, head of Italy's World Cup delegation. "FIFA's decision needs to be respected and accepted calmly."