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Ballack clings on to captaincy but will he make the team?

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SOCCER-GERMANY/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.

Germany’s young players, including joint-top World Cup scorer Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Jerome Boateng immediately became household names. Ozil and Khedira signed for Real Madrid, Mueller extended his contract at Bayern Munich and Boateng joined Manchester City

Loew opted to stick with Ballack as captain going into the Euro 2012 qualifiers yet the Bayer Leverkusen skipper will not play in the upcoming games against Belgium and Azerbaijan. Loew said he lacks match practice. It is also unclear whether he will be called up for the qualifiers in October. By that time he will be 34.

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