Germany doing just fine without Ballack
Germany captain Michael Ballack was in the stands to watch his team lose 2-1 to Australia in a friendly on Tuesday, the first time he was present since their World Cup quarter-final win over Argentina last year.
He was in no mood for any chats with reporters, opting to sit back and watch the game, surely knowing that his own international career is quickly drawing to an end.
The last time the 34-year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder played for Germany was in March last year against Argentina when he won his 98th cap. An ankle injury meant he missed out on the World Cup in South Africa and a shinbone injury in September ruled hin out of the first half of the current Bundesliga campaign.
German media have speculated about the player’s possible return to the team but as much as Ballack would like to get another, last, shot at a major title at Euro 2012, it looks highly unlikely that this will happen.
It is not so much his form that keeps him from being recalled by coach Joachim Loew but rather how the young German team has learned to play without him. Fast, fluid, technically strong and with an enthusiasm and maturity that have won them a new generation of fans.
Ballack on the other hand seems to represent the previous generation: the one where hard work, discipline and raw determination earned Germany their fierce reputation as one of the most consistent and effective teams on the planet over a period of decades.
Whereas before Ballack was the ultimate alpha male in the team, the new-look Germany does not really depend on just one undisputed leader but enjoys spreading responsibility around despite the Australia defeat.
Loew is quickly running out of excuses after he did not call up Ballack for their friendly against Italy in February and their Euro qualifier against Kazakhstan last week. He was also absent from the Australia game and a discussion between the two parties on Ballack’s Germany future is set for April.
Loew has long said Ballack was still the team’s captain and he would be called for service when his country needed him but this now looks more like offering a respectable way out of the squad, leaving on a high note as captain in a friendly match.
That could be as soon as August when Germany host Brazil, who won the 2002 World Cup beating the Germans. Ballack was suspended from the final, one of many in every major international competition for club and country that the former Chelsea player ended up losing.