Schweinsteiger: minnows improving
Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger believes that Europe's footballing minnows are closing the gap on the traditional continental powers, helping to make qualifying more compeitive.
Schweinsteiger is preparing to line-up against lowly Kazakhstan on Saturday, who at 132nd in the FIFA rankings are 129 places below Germany in world football's pecking order.
It is difficult to see the three-time World Cup winners emerging from the match with anything other than a convincing victory but Schweinsteiger, who will be earning his 86th international cap in the Group A encounter, insists that minnows like Kazakhstan are improving.
"It is not easy to scare those teams out of the stadium anymore," Schweinsteiger said. "They improve and they learn more these days. Maybe in the past you could go there and devastate them.
"Today you have to show a good performance in order to achieve a good result. If you look at the match against Azerbaijan last year, we could have only won 2-0 there."
Schweinsteiger's words appear a touch kind, considering Germany actually ran out 6-1 winners against Azerbaijan and Saturday's opponents Kazakhstan have yet to score a goal in four qualifying matches.
But the Bayern Munich midfielder says Joachim Low's side are taking nothing for granted as they face a crunch period in Euro 2012 qualifying.
"The next three qualifiers (against Kazakhstan and at Austria and Azerbaijan) are very important for us," Schweinsteiger said. "If we win we can achieve a lead against Austria, Turkey and Belgium. The others will steal points off each other. Therefore it is even more important to win the game on Saturday."
Schweinsteiger also took the opportunity to back club and country team-mate Miroslav Klose, who despite being just nine goals away from equalling Gerd Muller's Germany scoring record, has come under criticism for his poor form in recent months.
"He is a very experienced player, who also shows cleverness and knows how to handle certain situations," Schweinsteiger said. "Even if it is not very easy for him at the moment, you can see his engagement in the training sessions in Munich.
"We should be happy to have a striker like him in the background behind Mario Gomez. Gomez and him, they are both quality players."