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  Euro Stars    Michael Ballack

  

Ballack looking for glory without personal sacrifice
 
Name
Michael Ballack
Position
Midfielder
Club
Bayern
DOB
26.09.1976
Michael Ballack's importance as playmaker in the German side was evident in his performances that helped to clinch a spot in the Euro 2004 finals.

Despite being hampered by fitness problems, Ballack played a a vital role in the 2-1 victory over Scotland and the 3-0 defeat of Iceland that sent Germany through after a qualifying campaign that proved tougher than expected.

He was not fully fit either at the 2002 World Cup but still led Germany into the final, which he then missed through suspension after sacrificing himself with a tactical foul in the semi-final.


Bringing down a South Korean opponent earned him a booking which disqualified him for the final. At the time of the 71st-minute foul the match was poised at 0-0. Four minutes later he himself scored the goal that won the match for Germany and put them into the World Cup final which he would miss.

He might not have done it if he was older, but as he was 25 at the time and only 27 now, he still has time on his side.

Ballack, Germany's Player of the Season in 2002-03, was expected to flourish when he joined Bayern Munich from Bayer Leverkusen the previous summer.

His performances this season for Bayern, though, have come under scrutiny in Munich with the German champions out of Europe and failing to retain their league title.

Despite criticism in some quarters that he has failed to inspire Bayern, Germany coach Rudi Voeller has not wavered in his support of a player with a record of scoring goals in key games.

"Just him being on the pitch is important," Voeller said. "He is not only a great football player but also a true leader."

Discreet he may be, but the quiet, East German-born midfielder does speak out when he feels he has to and his elegance on the pitch should not be mistaken for arrogance.

"Michael can respond to pressure and has demonstrated many times that he is a match winner," said Voeller.

Ballack demonstrated his mettle before Germany's final qualifier against Iceland last October.

He was struggling with an ankle injury and heard his Bayern Munich chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, suggest it might be better if he missed the game.

"What Rummenigge says is rubbish," Ballack responded. "That match is ever so important for Germany and there's no way I'm going to stay at home."

So he played, opened the scoring, orchestrated play brilliantly throughout the game and participated in the defensive duties to help Germany book their place in the finals.

With more of the same in Portugal, Germany could go a long way.
- Patrick Vignal

 

 

 

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