Ballack says harmony reigns ahead of Russia match
Germany captain Michael Ballack has insisted there is no problem between him and the rest of the German squad ahead of Saturday’s World Cup qualifier against Russia, after reports claimed he was ostracised following his row with team manager Oliver Bierhoff.
Germany plays Russia in Dortmund with Ballack back captaining the side having recovered from a foot injury which kept him out of last month’s games for his country.
But relations between Bierhoff and Ballack had been strained since the pair had a heated argument on the pitch in Vienna immediately after the Euro 2008 final when the Germany team were told to carry a banner thanking fans for their support.
Chelsea star Ballack was still fuming with the manager after the team were allowed a visit from their families at their Swiss hotel after being beaten by Croatia in the pool stages earlier in the tournament.
The pair buried the hatchet last month during Germany’s World Cup qualifying games against Finland and Liechtenstein, which Ballack missed through injury and the captain says there is no problem with him and his team.
“The relationship is and always was intact,” said Ballack after reports last month in the German media claimed he was given the cold shoulder by teammates.
“I never felt there was a problem in the team, so I don’t need to change anything. That would be against my philosophy.”
Having missed the 6-0 win over Liechtenstein in Vaduz last month and the 3-3 draw with Finland in Helsinki, Ballack returns for Saturday’s Group Four clash with Russia and next Wednesday’s match against Wales.
“We all know our roles and our job is to make sure Germany reaches the World Cup in two years’ time,” said Ballack. “I expect it from each player.”
He insisted his row with Bierhoff is in the past - and should remain there.
“I know there has been much written about it, I can’t remember the exact details of the conversation and, besides, it is unpleasant if these things are brought up again and again.”
Germany coach Joachim Löw has said he wants his team to reach new heights and his captain agrees.
“The coach of the national team is putting more and more pressure on the players in an effort to coax more out of them,” said Ballack.
“It is a good thing because it sets a good example to new players coming into the team.”