Loew says Ballack remains Germany’s captain
Michael Ballack will remain Germany captain but he must regain
his pre-injury form to earn his place on the team, coach Joachim
Loew said Wednesday.
Loew announced his decision ahead of Friday’s match against
Belgium, moving to defuse a situation that threatened to become a
distraction to the World Cup semifinalists as they embark on their
2012 European Championship campaign.
Ballack, a 33-year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, missed the
World Cup due to injury. Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm led
Germany to third place in South Africa and said he wanted to stay
on as captain.
Lahm will be Ballack’s deputy and wear the armband in the Euro
2012 qualifiers in Brussels on Friday and against Azerbaijan on
Sept. 7 in Cologne, Loew said.
The coach said he had told Ballack that he is ”not in a
position to strengthen the team right now” and will have to work
hard to win back his position.
”I told him quite openly that I do not yet see him in condition
to help us and that this World Cup brought about a new situation,”
He added that Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, who
recently moved to Real Madrid, both had ”outstanding” tournaments
for Germany in the midfield.
Ballack was injured in the FA Cup final in May while still at
Chelsea. He returned to former club Leverkusen but hasn’t yet
returned to his old form.
Loew also said Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer would remain No.
1 with Leverkusen’s Rene Adler and Werder Bremen’s Tim Wiese as
He cautioned against underestimating Belgium, which he said he
counts along with Turkey and Austria as a contender to finish top
of Germany’s group and earn a direct berth for the 2012 tournament
in Poland and Ukraine.
”We are going to be up against a highly motivated team,” Loew