Mind the gap, says Schweinsteiger
Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger believes the gap between Europe's top nations and its minnows is narrowing.
Germany continue their qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships when they play host to Group A cellar dwellers Kazakhstan on Saturday.
The 2008 European runners-up are five points clear on the group's table with straight wins over Belgium, Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as a 3-0 win at Kazakhstan.
But Schweinsteiger cautioned his team-mates not to expect an easy victory when Kazakhstan visit Kaiserslautern, saying minnow nations no longer feel fear at the thought of taking on top sides like Germany.
"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 (Germany won 6-1)."
A visit from Kazakhstan will also serve as preparation of sorts for Germany's friendly with Asian Cup finalists Australia on Tuesday, though Schweinsteiger said Joachim Loew's side are more concerned with clinching their berth in the Euro 2012 finals.
"The next three qualifiers (against Kazakhstan and at Austria and Azerbaijan) are very important for us."
"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 time to defend national team-mate Mirslav Klose, who has not scored a goal for Germany or at club level in almost two months and has fallen behind Mario Gomez in coach Louis van Gaal's pecking order at club side Bayern Munich.
"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."