Ballack hopes to continue improvement

German Football
By German Football June 7, 2008 04:08

Ballack hopes to continue improvement

Captain Michael Ballack believes his experience of playing in the English Premier League will help him have a successful Euro 2008 campaign. The Chelsea midfielder hit peak form during the second half of the last season, finally showing his strength after 18 months of injuries and poor form.

He is now hoping to carry his form to Switzerland, where Germany are preparing to face Poland in their opening match on Sunday. ‘The Premier League has certainly improved me as a footballer and I have received a lot of praise in the last few weeks,’ said Ballack. ‘I think after my injury, I found some good form and I’m happy to be playing in such a strong league which demands so much from you and puts you under pressure every weekend. Great football is played there and I think everybody takes that with them into the national team.’

As for Germany’s chances, the 31-year-old believes this year’s European Championships could be the toughest ever and says every player must be in peak condition. He also tipped young Stuttgart striker Mario Gomez to make an impact. ‘At such a tournament, and it will be the most intense of all, you can only have success if you are fully fit,’ Ballack said. ‘It will be the hardest Euros of all time. The German surprise could me Mario Gomez, if he plays. He has great ability and a lot of potential.’

Asked what Germany’s strengths would be in Austria and Switzerland, Ballack replied: ‘Our fight, our discipline, our desire – all that makes us a tournament team. And the other teams have respect for that. I think we are a good team, we are settled into a system and have our style in which everybody brings their own experience from abroad with them.’

Ballack and Torsten Frings will be pulling the strings in midfield but who will play either side of them remains a mystery. Striker Lukas Podolski has been used out of position on the left wing, while Clemens Fritz appears to have overtaken Bastian Schweinsteiger as first choice for the right wing.

David Odonkor, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Tim Borowski are also candidates and the decision will be made by coach Joachim Low tomorrow evening in a training session closed to media and fans. ‘The players know full well that the fans are excited, but they also know that training sessions are not always for the public and this is quite normal,’ explained Ballack. We also need to relax to prepare and study things that the opponents should not know about.’

The Chelsea star also revealed he and his team-mates had not been paying attention to the press, particularly the Polish tabloid which depicted Ballack and Low with decapitated heads. ‘I have never had any problems with Poland, but we are only concentrating on ourselves anyway,’ he added.

Ballack also says he ‘gets calmer every tournament’ as he looks forward to Germany’s Euro 2008 opener against Poland with a cool head. He is playing his fifth major tournament, having appeared in the last two World Cups and European Championships, and knows such experience will be vital as Germany’s Group B campaign begins in Klagenfurt on Sunday. ‘I get calmer with every tournament,’ he said. ‘I now know what needs to be done, but of course a Euro or a World Cup is still the biggest thing for a footballer. As soon as the first game starts, the tension increases.

The statistics look good for Germany in their face off against Poland. They are undefeated in 15 meetings with their neighbours – a run comprising eleven victories and four draws. ‘We want to continue this streak,’ said Ballack, whose side have not won a match at a Euro finals since beating the Czech Republic 2-1 in the Euro 96 final. ‘The form and standard of the team give me cause for optimism. We had a good World Cup in 2006 and have no fear. We can beat anybody and are not here to win just one game.’

German Football
By German Football June 7, 2008 04:08
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