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Nov 9, 2006

Mertesacker back in Germany squad after injury

BERLIN, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Germany coach Joachim Loew called defender Per Mertesacker back to his squad on Thurday for a Euro 200 Group D qualifier against Cyprus in Nicosia next week.

Mertesacker, a stalwart in the Germany side that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, has not played since that 2-0 loss against Italy on July 4. He returned to play in the Bundesliga last month but was not included in Loew's squad until now at the request of Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf.

'Per was a bulwark on the team over the last two years,' said Loew. 'He's got back his good form for Bremen in the Bundesliga and Champions League. But we know that after his severe injury he still has some catching up to do.'

But Loew will be without another World Cup star, striker Lukas Podolski.

Rather than replace the Bayern Munich player with one of several young German strikers having good runs in the Bundesliga, Loew instead opted to take a small squad for the Cyprus match.

'Because we're only going to have two training sessions and be spending a short time together, I've decided to pick a smaller squad and not add any new players this time,' Loew said.

Strikers Aaron Hunt of Bremen, Mario Gomez of VfB Stuttgart and Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling had been mentioned recently as possible candidates. He said they would get their chances next year.

Loew once again picked Jan Schlaudraff of Alemannia Aachen as his fourth striker after he had been nominated for two matches in October.

Loew said VfL Wolfburg striker Mike Hanke would probably replace Podolski alongside Bremen's Miroslav Klose in the first team.

'He's having a good run and scoring a lot of important goals,' Loew said of Hanke.

Loew will have to do without several players with injuries. Christoph Metzelder, Sebastian Kehl, Tim Borowski, Marcell Jansen and Alexander Madlung are among those missing.

Goalkeepers: Jens Lehmann (Arsenal), Timo Hildebrand (VfB Stuttgart)

Defenders: Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Malik Fathi (Hertha Berlin), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Clemens Fritz (Werder Bremen), Manuel Friedrich (Mainz 05), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich).

Midfielders: Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Torsten Frings (Werder Bremen), Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen), David Odonkor (Sevilla), Thomas Hitzlsperger (VfB Stuttgart), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburg SV)

Strikers: Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen), Mike Hanke (VfL Wolfsburg), Oliver Neuville (Borussia Moechengladbach), Jan Schlaudraff (Alemannia Aachen)