Oliver Bierhoff knows a thing or two about what it takes to win a UEFA European Championship and, having arrived with the Germany squad in Poland yesterday, the former forward is hopeful that the current lineup's youthful edge can help them go far at UEFA EURO 2012.
Now serving as team manager to Joachim Löw's side, Bierhoff famously scored twice in the final of EURO '96, coming off the bench to equalise against the Czech Republic before settling the contest with a golden goal in extra time. That was Germany's last taste of continental glory, but they finished runners-up to Spain last time out and are again being backed to go far.
"We know we are among the favourites, but it will be very tough for us," promised Bierhoff. "All the other nations are also very strong. We have good, young, quality players, but we have to really be a team to go forward."
There is certainly a freshness to Löw's side, which also helped them reach the last four at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. While the likes of Mesut Özil, Holger Badstuber and Thomas Müller are already established fixtures in the team, exciting talents such as Mario Götze could be set to make a big impact, and Bierhoff is keen for that youthful vigour to pay dividends.
"It can be an advantage and it can also be a disadvantage, because we have nine players who haven't played [an international] tournament yet," he said. "It can be very good for us because this generation of young players is very fast and quick; but, on the other hand, they do not have too much experience. But we're hopeful."
The draw could nonetheless have been kinder to the three-time winners, who open their bid against Portugal on Saturday before tackling fellow Group B hopefuls the Netherlands and Denmark. "It's a very tough group," explained Bierhoff, who struck 37 goals in his 70 international appearances. "There are strong teams like the Netherlands and Portugal. We are also among the favourites, and Denmark aren't a very easy team to play. But the best will win, and we'll have to start well against Portugal."
There will be no issue of needing time to settle in their new surroundings at least, with Germany having been given a rousing reception upon arriving at their Gdansk base of operations. No fewer than 11,000 locals turned out to witness their first training session and Bierhoff has been impressed with what he has seen so far.
"We are very happy to be here," he said. "It was very nice for us; we had a very warm welcome, and now we want to get prepared for a nice tournament. We have a very good relationship with Poland. We are very happy to be here, but we will play our first games in Ukraine, so we will do our best to come back to Gdansk for the quarter-finals."
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