Germany yearn for first major title since 1996

Berlin: Former European champions Germany could be forgiven for having already set their sights on their first major title since 1996 after completing a perfect Euro 2012 qualification with 10 wins in 10 games.

Germany beat Belgium 3-1 on Tuesday to finish off a flawless campaign in which they qualified top of Group A and deservedly staked a claim for next year`s title in Poland and Ukraine.

More than seven out of 10 Germans believe their team will win Euro 2012, according to a poll conducted by a German broadcaster on Wednesday.

Coach Joachim Loew and his players, however, are quick to put a damper on the fans` expectations, saying several tough teams are vying for the title.

"What bothers me is that in the past few weeks there is only talk about a duel between Germany and Spain," Loew, who led a young German squad to a third-place finish at last year`s World Cup, told reporters.

Spain, the European champions and World Cup winners, beat Germany en route to both titles, in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

"It won`t necessarily come to such a duel. There are other nations who are every good. It will not come down only to Germany versus Spain."

The Germans, three-times European champions and three-times World Cup winners who have not won a major trophy since the 1996 European championship, will travel to their Polish headquarters next year with a young squad that impressed at the World Cup in South Africa.

Several more, even younger players, including Borussia Dortmund`s Mario Goetze, 19, and 20-year-old Andre Schuerrle, have firmly established themselves as part of the team in recent months.

On Tuesday, captain Philipp Lahm, at 27, was the oldest German player on the pitch.

"This is the easiest nomination I have ever had to make," said Loew, adding that he could have filled each position twice. "In the past I had to think a lot; there were some problems here or there but I don`t have that this time."

The players also advised caution.

"The Dutch and the Spaniards also won all their games so there should be three European champions," Thomas Mueller told reporters when asked whether Germany`s title chances had increased after advancing in such a dominant fashion.

"We first need to play the tournament and then see what comes out of it. We are well prepared and happy to be going there," said Mueller.

Bureau Report

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