Originally created 07/08/06

Germany gives backup keeper due in final game

BERLIN - Germany captain Michael Ballack is out, and backup goalkeeper Oliver Kahn is in.

While third place is all that's at stake now, Germany still hopes to give its fans one final World Cup celebration today in its match against Portugal. They'll have to do it without their versatile leader Ballack, who has an inflamed left knee and will miss the game in Stuttgart.

Kahn, meanwhile, gets his first World Cup minutes since the 2002 final, when he was between the posts during Germany's 2-0 loss to Brazil.

"We owe him that gesture and no one in the world is going to begrudge him that," coach Juergen Klinsmann said.

He will replace Jens Lehmann, who justified Klinsmann's controversial choice to start him with sparkling play throughout the tournament. The coach said Lehmann was consulted and had "zero problem" with the move.

The tournament has been hard for the 37-year-old Kahn, a national hero who was relegated to the bench in favor of Lehmann. Kahn was voted FIFA's outstanding player at the 2002 World Cup, but the tournament ended on a sour note when his blunder led to a Brazil goal.

Lehmann, 36, was Kahn's understudy at the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, and the European Championship in 2000 and 2004, but never saw action.

Defenders Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich also will miss the match because of injuries. Mertesacker had surgery on his left heel and Friedrich twisted his knee. Midfielder Tim Borowski left Friday's practice with a foot injury and is doubtful.

The third-place playoff game brings a chance for Germany and Portugal to take a little bit more prestige out of the tournament.

"It has something, it is a World Cup game," Klinsmann said. "We want to be third and we are going to give it our best and try to give our fans a good game."

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led his native Brazil to the title four years ago, missed his chance at winning the World Cup with different countries.

His team can leave its mark in Portugal's soccer history by equaling the accomplishment of Eusebio's 1966 team that beat the Soviet Union to capture third - its best finish at the World Cup.

"We're proud and happy to be in the best four of the 32 teams that started this tournament," Scolari said.


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