By Mark Bennett
After reaching the finals with a 3-0 win against Iceland in their final qualifying game on Saturday, Germany are hoping to raise their game.
After some shaky results earlier in the campaign, which saw them lose the lead in the table, Rudi Völler's side eased into the finals by beating Scotland 2-1 and Iceland 3-0 in their final qualifying games to qualify as comfortable winners in Group 5. The coach is now hoping that their struggle for qualification will serve them well at UEFA EURO 2004™.
The experience of coming from behind in the group is extremely important for my young players and it will help them take their game to the next level," he said. "Now we are looking forward to the challenge of playing in Portugal, but we have still got a lot of work to do."
Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who plans to retire after the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals on home soil, had good reason to celebrate. "We haven't achieved anything yet and the big games won't come until next summer," he warned. "But nonetheless it is great to have secured a win in the final qualifying match of my career."
While most directly involved in the German side were just delighted to have reached the finals, former national coach and German footballing legend Franz Beckenbauer was already assessing Germany's prospects for the finals. And the man who led West Germany to triumph at the 1990 World Cup had high hopes.
'We can win'
"We can win the [UEFA] European Championship if we get everything right," he said. "However, we cannot be allowed to sit back and be content with a 3-0 win agains Iceland. We must continue the hard work."
These sentiments was shared striker Fredi Bobic, was in the Germany team who won EURO 96™. "
I would love to have the experience of being on the winning team again, but we got a long way to go until then," he said.
'Lifting our game'
"In the last couple of games the whole set-up proved that we can deal with the pressure and that will surely help us in our campaign. I know that we still have to improve, but with qualification in the bag we can concentrate on lifting our game in the upcoming friendlies."
That friendly campaign starts with a game against France at the Arena AufSchalke on 15 November, and with the task of qualification now completed, Völler's players are looking forward with hope. More than that, they are also enjoying their football.
BV Borussia Dortmund defender Christian Wörns said: "The team spirit is really good and it will help us in the challenges to come. It is fun playing in this young team."
Hamburger SV midfielder Christian Rahn agreed, saying: "We are a very tight unit both on and off the pitch. We all enjoy linking up with the national team and playing for Germany." Having seemingly come through their rough patch unscathed, few will be looking forward to playing against them.
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