Ballack dismisses worries over Russian artificial pitch

Ballack dismisses worries over Russian artificial pitch
Photo: DPA
Germany captain Michael Ballack on Tuesday dismissed concerns over the artificial pitch for the key World Cup showdown with Russia, saying his team is well-prepared to adapt to the tricky surface.

The Chelsea midfielder, 33, said Germany is confident ahead of the Group Four clash in Moscow on Saturday where a win would see them book an automatic place in South Africa at next June’s tournament.

The match will be played at the 78,000-seater Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, one of the few major European grounds with an artificial pitch, but Germany have been practising on a similar surface this week at their training base.

“I have only trained on artificial turf a few times and never played a match on it,” Ballack told reporters after a training session on the AstroTurf. “But we are well prepared. Of course, it’s all a bit new, but it’s the same for both teams and so I

do not think it will play much of a role.”

Coach Joachim Löw said his players had worked on ball retention and precision passing at their training session and were already coming to terms with the new surface.

“Of course there is an adjustment that we’re going to have to get used to in the next few days but we will get used to it,” said Löw. “We have a few days to get accustomed to it and then it shouldn’t play a role.”

Germany are just a point ahead of Russia in the qualifying group and victory in Moscow would guarantee Loew’s side a place in South Africa regardless of their last match against Finland in Hamburg next Wednesday.

Ballack said he expected Guus Hiddink – who left Chelsea after a short stint as coach last season to return to his former role as Russian trainer – to prepare his team well.

“But at the end of the day, you can have respect but you mustn’t forget to play football,” he said.

“We are well prepared and we are full of self-confidence. We know what we can do. We are at the top of the table and I am expecting a classic game,

obviously with a good result for us.”

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