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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 17, 2008

Löw ready for new and improved England

Germany coach Joachim Löw feels England are "the strongest they have been for years" as the two countries prepare for their friendly meeting at Berlin's Olympiastadion on Wednesday.

Germany finished runners-up at Euro 2008 while England failed to even qualify for the tournament, but Löw feels new boss Fabio Capello has transformed England's fortunes.

"After failing to make Euro 2008, England have changed," he said at a press conference on Monday.

"They have taken huge steps forwards and what we have seen of them and analysed over the last few days have shown us that England at the moment - and independent of who plays - are the strongest they have been for years.

"They have learned from not qualifying for Euro 2008 and, with Capello, they have a coach who has brought his strong Italian influence on this team.

"I don't have to talk them up - they are strong enough as it is."

Löw has called three uncapped players into his squad and - like 15 months ago when a weakened Germany claimed a 2-1 win at Wembley in the last meeting between the sides - he will not be fielding his first-choice XI in Berlin.

He plans to give Marvin Compper, Marcel Schafer and Tobias Weis their first caps, while the likes of captain Michael Ballack, Philipp Lahm and Torsten Frings are all absent.

England will also arrive in the German capital without several of their more established names, but Löw does not think that will make too big a difference.

"They have players who can replace a (Wayne) Rooney," he said. "The others are equally good.

"They have 20 to 25 players who are all motivated and can fit into the team seamlessly, so this is no advantage for us.

"They are and will be tough opponents.

"We were in a similar situation when we played at Wembley and had Philipp Lahm forced to play in midfield due to shortages, and we won there.

"The style of England will not change just because two or three players are not there."

Löw admits England's fine recent form - they have not dropped a point in World Cup qualification so far - has been impressive.

He said: "England are an intact, very disciplined and, above all, very dynamic team.

"You can see in the Premier League that they are incredibly quick to turn games around and the midfielders always support the attack.

"That is a trademark of the Premier League teams like Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea.

"They put the pressure on the opponents so that you cannot get at them.

"It has impressed me, what we have seen of them, and they have won all their games since the European Championships and been convincing.

"With 14 goals scored and only two conceded, that speaks for itself and we are up against a strong England team here in Berlin."

England will certainly provide a tough test for the fringe players who will be hoping to impress enough to get a chance to prove themselves in World Cup qualifying.

"I think the best end to the year is to play a friendly in Berlin, in a big stadium and facing England is always something special," Löw said.

"A game like this against a strong opponent allows us to learn a few things.

"Qualifying is over for this year and now we are able to try a few other players.

"I think this year has been positive in that we have managed to feed some new players into the team and that is also an important aim for next year.

"(Piotr) Trochowski, (Simon) Rolfes, (Thomas) Hitzlsperger, (Mario) Gomez and (Patrick) Helmes have all forced their way into contention this year.

"We have more depth to the team and this is promoting a battle for places."

Hoffenheim defender Compper is one player who will be looking to catch the eye and crown a stunning year with an international debut.

The 23-year-old, who was a second-tier player just 12 months ago, admitted the speed of his rise had taken him by surprise.

"I think you always have the ambition when you become a professional footballer of playing for your national team," he said.

"To be honest, I did not expect this to come so quickly.

"We were only promoted in the summer. This has always been a dream for me and if I play on Wednesday, it will be a dream come true."

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