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Apologetic Ballack to Remain Germany Captain

Michael Ballack will remain Germany captain after apologizing for recent public criticism of coach Joachim Loew, the German FA said in a statement on Friday.

Ballack, right, talks to Loew, left, during a training session of the German national team on May 26, 2008

Loew and Ballack buried the hatchet in a meeting on Friday

The German soccer federation DFB said in a statement that Ballack and Loew buried the hatchet when they met Thursday at the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt.

The news ended speculation that Ballack may resign as captain or even be stripped of this position after criticizing Loew last week in a newspaper interview over his selection criteria and attitude towards players. Even his future in the team was put into question.

"Michael Ballack remains my captain. But as captain he must play by the rules," said Loew.

Ballack, 32, said: "I realize it was not ok to go public. I regret that this led to the impression that I wanted to criticise Joachim Loew in his position as coach," the skipper said. "I apologized to Joachim Loew. He is the coach, he makes the decisions and we have to respect them."

The Chelsea midfielder had spoken out in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily last week, expressing his dissent that Loew benched his long-time midfield partner Torsten Frings at two World Cup qualifiers.

Ballack said that Loew did not show enough respect for veteran Germany players, but Loew insisted that no player is guaranteed of a place in the starting 11.

Ballack apologized on the weekend but Loew insisted on a meeting between the two in Germany. With Chelsea's consent, the currently injured Ballack flew to Frankfurt in a private jet on Thursday and returned to London immediately afterwards.

"He knows that he can raise every issue internally. But all decisions are made by our coaches - and I made that clear to Michael," Loew said.

Loew gave an indication of the seriousness of the conflict when he expressed his joy that "a great international player, who has played a main role in our success over the last years, remains available for the team and will help us meet our goals on the road to the 2010 World Cup."

Ballack said: "I have no doubt after the talk with Joachim Loew that we can both realise our goals in the national team in a good atmosphere."

Ballack is Germany's only entry in the 23-player shortlist for the World Footballer of the Year award. But he is yet to win a major international title on club or country level. Given his age, the 2010 World Cup could be his last big event in Germany's colors.

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