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Somber tone as teams mourn victims of plane crash

By Xinhua In Berlin | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-27 07:27

It was not going to be a normal soccer match, not with Germany in a state of mourning after Tuesday's devastating airliner crash in the French Alps claimed 150 victims, including 72 Germans.

As the 2014 World Cup champion tied Australia 2-2 in its first match in four months, the action on the field in Kaiserslautern was not uppermost in people's minds.

The teams honored the victims with a minute of silence and all the players wore a black ribbon on their shirts. Two of the victims were Australian citizens.

"After what happened, the dreadful plane crash lies over everything. We as a football family pay our deepest respect to the victims and their families," said German Football Association president Wolfgang Niersbach.

Five days ahead of Germany's next Euro 2016 qualifier against Georgia in Tiflis on Sunday, it was a special game for Benedikt Hoewedes, the defender from Schalke 04 who was born in Haltern am See, the town of 37,000 inhabitants where 16 high school students and two teachers that died in the disaster hailed from.

"Everybody knows I come from Haltern am See and I still have many friends and relatives there. I can't express how sad I am about the dreadful disaster. I wish the families of the victims a lot of strength to get over this," wrote Hoewedes on Twitter, like many other teammates and association officials.

Germany coach Joachim Loew started the warm-up against 2015 Asian Cup winner Australia with many of his key players on the bench in order to try new players and new tactics, like a three-man defense.

Jerome Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller (all Bayern Munich), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) and Andre Schuerrle (VfL Wolfsburg) were all on the bench in order to give Jonas Hector (FC Cologne), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich) and Ilkay Guendogan (Borussia Dortmund) the opportunity of getting some match practice.

Keeper Manuel Neuer from Bayern Munich was sidelined due to a minor knee injury. Following a long injury break, Badstuber, like Guendogan, was back with the team for the first time since his last match in 2012.

While Sami Khedira announced on Wednesday he will leave Real Madrid next summer and Kroos was honored as Germany's "international player of the year," Loew's squad played an unusual 3-5-2 (or 3-1-4-2) system after the coach announced he would be trying out new systems in order to become more effective against defensively-minded teams.

In the fifth meeting between the two teams, the Germans had problems and Australia bothered them with their speedy forwards and counter attacks.

The draw, which pleased Australia more than it did the home team, was the best Germany's "new team" could manage on the day.

On Sunday, against Georgia, Germany will have to improve in order to gain points to qualify for the 2016 European Championship in France. So far the German campaign has not been convincing and it is only third in its qualifying group.

"The team is aware that we have to improve against Georgia. But I have no doubts that we will get into a better shape," said Loew.

 Somber tone as teams mourn victims of plane crash

German and Australian players observe a minute's silence before their friendly match in Kaiserslautern on Wednesday. The tribute was for the victims of Tuesday's Germanwings airliner crash in the French Alps. Daniel Roland / AFP

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