PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) — Lukas Podolski was a promising teenager when he made his debut for Germany 10 years ago. Now in his third World Cup, he's a veteran in a young squad with a role that goes well beyond entertaining his teammates.
Podolski is popular with his fellow players for his easygoing, fun-loving manner and a quick wit.
But behind the outgoing personality is a steely determination.
"I am here to lift the World Cup title," the Arsenal forward said on Saturday. "The 10 years have flown by and it would be great to complete the circle with the World Cup."
Germany opens its World Cup campaign on Monday against Portugal in Salvador. It also faces Ghana and the United States in Group G.
Two years after joining the national team, Podolski earned the best young player award at the 2006 World Cup — ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — and became one of the team's regulars.
Podolski slightly fell off the radar in Germany with the rise of new stars in his position, such as Marco Reus and Andre Schuerrle. But Reus is out of the World Cup because of injury and Podolski could get the nod for the starting 11 ahead of Schuerrle following some impressive recent performances.
Podolski played a role in five of Germany's six goals in the final warm-up match against Armenia, scoring one himself. He also came off the bench in the earlier 2-2 draw with Cameroon, leading a second-half German rally.
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