DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) - Germany’s Lukas Podolski will receive an appropriate farewell when the world champions meet England in a high-quality friendly on Wednesday with the winger having become one of the country’s all-time greats, coach Joachim Loew said on Tuesday.
The game is expected to provide a perfect stage with Podolski, whois hugely popular among German fans, set to earn his 130th and final cap and start as captain for the first time.
Germany will be missing several players through injury with Loew looking towards Sunday’s Group C World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan with his side top after four straight wins.
The 31-year-old Podolski, who made his debut back in 2004, is his country’s third most-capped player and is also fourth in the all-time scorers’ list with 48 goals.
”He is a unique specimen, no one can really replace him,“ Loew told reporters. ”For me it will be a beautiful moment but a sad one because he was one of the greatest players ever to come out of Germany.
“Lukas and myself have gone a long road together,” said Loew, who has coached Podolski for all of his 13 years with the national team as assistant coach and then head coach since 2006.
“We have gone over many hurdles, many tournaments, disappointments but also the biggest joy as coach and player with the World Cup victory in 2014. So the stage tomorrow is appropriate. Germany against England is the right atmosphere.”
The speedy winger, known as much for his powerful left foot as his jovial character, will continue in club football as he prepares to leave Turkey’s Galatasaray at the end of the season to join Japan’s Vissel Kobe in the J1 League.
“These 13 years were great and fun years and I am proud of them,” said Podolski, who was part of a talented generation of Germany players, including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm, that emerged after 2004.
Asked by English reporters what made Germany so successful over the years, Podolski, who also played for Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan among others, said it may have been sticking with the same coach over a decade.
“Maybe the main reason is that we have a good coach for more than ten years and after 2004 we started a road which maybe other nations did not start,” he said.
England have had six coaches over the same period.
“What happens in England at youth level I don’t know. But the players are getting stronger... and if they do not face Germany in a tournament maybe they can progress,” he said with a laugh.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris