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AC Milan
By ESPN Staff

Home away from home

While the World Cup finals might still be five months away, the race to sell the thirty two participating countries on the many charms of the different German regions has almost reached the finish line.

In the weeks before and after the draw in Leipzig on December 9, officials of the various national associations scoured the German countryside, looking for the ideal base. All but four teams have apparently found what they're looking for. At the time of writing, only Australia, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro and the Czech Republic have yet to confirm their chosen spots.

Quality football facilities in Germany are to be found in abundance. Grass-roots sport is relatively well-funded. It was therefore no surprise when local World Cup organisers issued a list of more than a hundred suggested venues for the federations to consider, as far back as October 2004.

Sixteen of the potential training sites identified by the organising committee were located in the former communist DDR, East Germany. Yet at this stage, only one country, Ukraine, has settled on an eastern option: Potsdam, on the outskirts of Berlin, but in fact, situated in the state of Brandenburg.

The draw played an instrumental part in Ukrainian thinking, given that two of their three group games will be staged in Leipzig and Berlin, the only two World Cup match venues in the eastern part of the country.

On another level though, is it not better to find the perfect base, irrespective of its proximity to World Cup stadia? The United States, for instance, picked the vibrant, northern Hanseatic city of Hamburg, long before they knew they had landed in Group E.

As it turns out, their games will be played in Gelsenkirchen, Kaiserslautern and Nürnberg, none of them exactly a stone's throw from Hamburg.

In keeping with their arrangements in Korea four year ago, the Americans will simply fly to each venue on the day prior to their matches.

Why have other countries not followed this model, except using an East German training site as the fixed base? The irony is that the football infrastructure in the former DDR has been given a massive overhaul in recent years. One can argue that training grounds and hotels, having been completely rebuilt, are in many cases more modern than their equivalents in Western Germany.

If privacy is what's being sought, then how could a team go wrong by selecting Halle, Dresden or Rostock, away from the media throngs?

Berlin, the capital will host five games, and will serve as the permanent base for the German national team. However, these activities will take place in what used to be West Berlin.

Perhaps, it's the line of thinking (and I'm guilty on this score too) that's the real problem. Here we are more than fifteen years after reunification, talking about East and West Germany. It's surely a matter of die Grenze im Kopf (the border in one's head.)

The big winner in the base stakes appears to be the South.

Some of the true big guns have backed this option: for instance, Argentina (near Nürnberg), England (just outside Baden-Baden) and Holland (Hinterzarten.)

Another popular region is the football mad North West. Amongst temporary residents of this part of the country will be Italy (Duisburg), Spain (Kamen) and Portugal (Marienfeld.)

Meanwhile, spare a thought for tourism officials in places like Chemnitz, Plauen and Grimma, who are praying the four remaining teams, currently without a base, will cast their eyes to the east.

Last month, it appeared that the Ivorians were close to making a deal with a resort at Fleesensee near Magdeburg. It turned out to be the work of a mischief maker.

With the clock ticking, hopes continue to dwindle. Australia have their sights set on a camp in the forest region in the South West around Stuttgart.

Below is a complete list of all the confirmed team bases, and their proximity to the nearest World Cup city centre:

Angola: Celle (26 miles from Hannover)
Argentina: Herzogenaurach (16 miles from Nürnberg)
Australian: unconfirmed
Brazil: Falkenstein - early part of group stage (14 miles from Frankfurt)
Bergisch Gladbach - later part of group stage (10 miles from Köln)
Costa Rica: Heidelberg (70 miles from Kaiserslautern)
Croatia: Bad Brückenau (75 miles from Frankfurt)
Czech Rep: unconfirmed
Ecuador: Bad Kissingen (90 miles from Frankfurt and Nürnberg)
England: Bühl (75 miles from Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern)
France: Aerzen (35 miles from Hannover)
Germany: Berlin
Ghana: Würzburg (68 miles from Nürnberg)
Iran: Friedrichshafen (125 miles from Stuttgart)
Italy: Duisburg (20 miles from Gelsenkirchen)
Ivory Coast: unconfirmed
Japan: Bonn (18 miles from Köln)
Korea Rep: Bensberg (12 miles from Köln)
Mexico: Göttingen (75 miles from Hannover)
Netherlands: Hinterzarten (100 miles from Stuttgart)
Paraguay: Oberhaching (10 miles from Munich)
Poland: Hannover
Portugal: Marienfeld (28 miles from Köln)
Saudi Arabia: Bad Nauheim (22 miles from Frankfurt)
Serbia & Mont: unconfirmed
Spain: Kamen (33 miles from Gelsenkirchen)
Sweden: Bremen (75 miles from Hamburg and Bremen)
Switzerland: Bad Bertrich (90 miles from Köln, Frankfurt and Kaiserslautern)
Togo: Wangen im Allgäu (106 miles from Stuttgart)
Trinidad & Tobago: Rotenburg an der Wümme (60 miles from Hamburg)
Tunisia: Schweinfurt (70 miles from Nürnberg)
Ukraine: Potsdam (22 miles from Berlin)
USA: Hamburg