Germany's rising stars eye World Cup glory

Germany's head coach Joachim Loew addresses media in Appiano near the north Italian city of Bolzano on June 1, 2010, where he unveiled his final World Cup squad of 23 players. AFP photo

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany's rising stars Thomas Mueller and Holger Badstuber both admit they sometimes have to pinch themselves to make sure their path to the World Cup is not just a dream.

In the space of a year, the pair have gone from Bayern Munich's reserves to the brink of World Cup glory with the national side.

Both played a significant role in German league and cup double winners Bayern reaching the Champions League final this season and refer to the last 12 months by using words like "mad", "crazy" and "amazing".

"If I was to rub my eyes in disbelief, I'd get an infection," said Mueller.

"I try not to think about everything that's happened. I never thought it would happen like this. It's every boy?s dream. I'm not sure I'll make sense of it all for another two or three years."

They have both earned their place in the national set-up and were confirmed among Germany's final 23-man squad on June 1.

In his first season, attacking midfielder Mueller, 20, played in all 34 Bundesliga games last season, scored 13 league goals and created 10.

He finished the season with 19 goals in all competitions for Bayern and made his Germany debut in March against Argentina in the 1-0 defeat.

Badstuber missed just one league match all season and was at the heart of Bayern's defence.

"When you look back to where we were a year ago, it's been a lot of fun," said Badstuber who came off the bench to win his first cap in the 3-0 win against Hungary in Budapest last Saturday in a World Cup friendly.

Plucked from the reserves by Bayern coach Louis van Gaal at the start of the season, Mueller will only turn 21 in September, but has already played in a Champions League final and says the experience has served him well.

"I see it more as an advantage that we played the final, it shows we have certain qualities and reached a certain level," he said when the pair gave their first Germany press conference at the World Cup training camp in north Italy.

Mueller is set to play an attacking role behind the strikers in South Africa, while Badstuber is likely to be used as cover at left-back, but is the only left-footed player amongst the centre-backs.

After the withdrawal of both captain Michael Ballack and fellow midfielder Christian Traesch, Mueller came close to being the third German casualty when he tumbled from his mountain bike last Wednesday.

Sporting stitches and cuts across his chin, the youngster said a buckled bike was hardly going to ruin his World Cup dream.

"We just want to have fun and help Germany play well at the World Cup," he said.

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