Ballack’s absence not felt in World Cup opener
The absence of injured captain Michael Ballack at the World Cup
has created new possibilities in Germany’s style.
Without Ballack for the entire tournament due to an ankle
injury, Germany opened its schedule with a one-sided 4-0 win over
Australia that made few people remember the captain.
Ballack’s role on the field has been shared by Bastian
Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, who executed very well against
Many German fans are wondering if the team is better off without
the 33-year-old Ballack, whose contract with Chelsea wasn’t
extended after expiring earlier month.
“Michael Ballack was an important player and he has immense
experience,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said Monday. “For the
moment, we are managing without him.”
Whether Loew’s use of the past tense was intentional or a slip
of the tongue remains unclear, but Ballack may find it hard to
return to a successful team filled with youngsters.
Ballack’s injury in the FA Cup final stunned Germany and left
the three-time world champion without its most recognized
But Loew didn’t complain for too long. He always said he had
confidence in his team, the second youngest at the World Cup in the
country’s history with an average age of just under 25.
Ballack’s role recently was limited to securing Germany’s
defense rather than making thrusting runs on goal, a trademark of
his earlier years.
Khedira reminds him of a “young Ballack,” said Loew in another
Ballack has always believed Germany had to first tighten its
defense before pushing forward. Loew, however, has instilled a
flowing, quick-passing style that plays at a faster tempo without
Ballack and is less predictable.
With Schweinsteiger moving from the right wing into a deeper
role in front of the back four, Khedira has been entrusted with
making runs at the defense.
Mesut Oezil, widely praised by his teammates for his sparkling
performance against Australia, would have found it difficult to win
a spot in the starting lineup if Ballack was healthy. Oezil’s
creative flair and speed have given Germany an added quality.
“The way he moves the ball and gives our game fluidity makes
him extremely valuable,” Loew said.
Ballack has said he would like to play at the 2012 European
Championship. If he does return, he may find himself in a much less