Ballack aims to lead Germany to Euro glory
Michael Ballack was not as dominant as expected when he returned to football action from last week's European Champions League nightmare.
The Germany captain on Tuesday night played for 45 minutes in his team's 2-2 draw with Belarus in a Euro 2008 tuneup match, leaving the pitch at halftime when his side was 2-0 up.
"There were a couple of mistakes, I must get into the team again. I had three days off," he said.
Ballack did not have to join the first part of Germany's Euro training camp in Majorca after playing the Champions League final in Moscow, which his club Chelsea lost on penalties against Manchester United.
It was the ninth career second-place finish in various competitions for Ballack, who doesn't want to be remembered as a perennial runner-up.
"I have gotten over it quite well," said Ballack when he met the Germany team Monday and trained just one day ahead of Tuesday's match. Ballack insisted he wanted to play against Belarus because "I wanted to keep my rhythm" ahead of the June 7-29 Euro event in Austria and Switzerland.
Coach Joachim Loew said "it is only natural that it will take him a few days" to feel at home with the German team again. The coach expressed his confidence that Ballack was mentally strong to overcome the Moscow disappointment.
After all, the hopes are huge that Ballack will lead Germany to a good showing at Euro, ideally a fourth title.
"I am looking forward to this new challenge. I am motivated and seek the Euro title with the team," said Ballack.
Ballack was sidelined for almost eight months with an ankle injury until Christmas, but has been a key figure at Chelsea since his return.
"He has undergone a huge development, has become more mature and confident, has shouldered more responsibility," Loew said in praise of his star player.
The fine-tuning comes now as Ballack is with the team in Majorca for the final part of pre-Euro training, followed by a last friendly Saturday in Gelsenkirchen against Serbia. Germany then gather at their Swiss Euro camp next week ahead of their opener June 8 against Poland.
Loew was disappointed that Germany threw away the two-goal lead against Belarus but also pointed out that the team came into the match from intensive training.
"All players will be in better form in 12 days time. That's a promise." Loew said.
Ballack expressed his hope that a good result against Serbia will give him and the team a boost going into Euro.
"That is an important test. A good result is very important for the confidence," he said.