Football: Bellarabi set for Germany debut after meteoric rise

BERLIN (AFP) - Karim Bellarabi is set to cap a meteoric rise on Saturday by making his debut for Germany against Poland in a Euro 2016 football qualifier amid the world champions' injury problems.

The 24-year-old was relegated from the Bundesliga in May while on loan at Eintracht Braunschweig and watched Germany win the World Cup in July as a fan before starting pre-season training when he returned to Bayer Leverkusen.

A series of eye-catching displays, including the fastest goal in Bundesliga history, and Germany's lengthy injury list has catapulted the Berlin-born forward into the national squad.

He has been called up for the qualifiers against Poland in Warsaw and Tuesday's visit of the Republic of Ireland in Gelsenkirchen.

He turned down the chance to play for Morocco, the country of his father, and having played for Germany's junior sides, is set for his senior cap at Warsaw's National Stadium.

"It was a decision of the heart," he admits.

"My mother is German and I was born here.

"I spoke to my family a lot about it and decided to play for Germany. I hope it's the right decision for me.

"Germany is my homeland, even if I love Morocco just as much."

With striker Miroslav Klose retired, plus Marco Reus, Mesut Oezil and Mario Gomez all injured, Bellarabi and Borussia Moenchengladbach's Max Kruse have their chance to shine.

"His development is remarkable, he is incredibly fast and had made a strong start to the season," said Germany coach Joachim Loew of Bellarabi.

"He is very strong in one-on-one situations.

"I like how he works with the ball, I am sure he can be a good option for us."

Bellarabi made a big start to the season, which was just nine seconds old when he scored for Leverkusen in their 2-0 win at Borussia Dortmund - a new league record.

His contract expires in June 2016 and Leverkusen will have to make him a substantial offer to extend his stay, having become a cornerstone of Roger Schmidt's attack in just a matter of weeks.

"We have had him on our list for some time," said Loew with Germany second in Group D on goal difference to Poland after the opening games.

"Karim Bellarabi has earned his chance after several outstanding performances for his club.

"In the games against Poland and Ireland we have the chance to increase our lead at the top of the table and move away from the competition."

Bellarabi says he is ready to make his debut whether he starts against Poland or comes off the bench. "I accept the challenge and will give my best," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.