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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.
When Germany coach Joachim Loew confirmed Michael Ballack as team captain this week he put an end to a tug-of-war with defender Philipp Lahm. Lahm had been the captain at the World Cup in South Africa and wanted to remain after Ballack’s return from injury.
The 33-year-old Ballack was forced to miss the tournament due to an ankle injury but had insisted he was the undisputed team captain. Yet without Ballack’s heavy presence in midfield, Germany played exciting fast-paced football in South Africa, finishing in third place with their youngest World Cup squad in 76 years and winning considerable respect.
When Germany captain Michael Ballack was ruled out of the World Cup following a scan on his ankle last week there was no doubt this was a major setback for the three-times champions. By far the most experienced player, Ballack was the team’s leader having taken Germany to World Cup and Euro finals. The loss of midfielder Christian Traesch, only days after Ballack’s injury, could prove an even heavier blow.
Traesch injured his ankle in a friendly match against South Tirol this week and will be out for six weeks. Traesch was seen as someone who could take over the bulk of Ballack’s midfield duties. But with both of them out coach Joachim Loew has got to seriously reshuffle his squad to strike the right balance in defence and midfield without compromising either.
When former Germany keeper Jens Lehmann said earlier this month he wants to play at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, many said it was just another provocative statement by the 39-year-old at the twilight of his career.
Even Germany coach Joachim Loew and national goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke ruled out a return, saying there were four talented keepers in the squad already, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Rene Adler, Hanover 96 keeper Robert Enke, Manuel Neuer who plays for Schalke and Werder Bremen’s Tim Wiese.