German soccer star Michael Ballack's latest heartbreak in the Champions League final against Manchester United could drive his nation to Euro 2008 glory, according to Germany coach Joachim Loew.
A crushed Ballack after Chelsea lost to Man U on penalties
If the measure of a person can be gauged by how they react to adversity then Michael Ballack could be described as a player of huge substance.
Every soccer player experiences disappointment in their career as a matter of course -- you can't win 'em all, as the old adage goes -- but Ballack has lost some of the most defining games of his career and still manages to reassemble himself after such shattering defeats.
The fact that he was a driving force in Chelsea's run to this year's Champions League final -- and also a catalyst for his team's quest for the English Premiership title which went to the final game of the season -- says much about a man who has taken blows which would have weighed heavy on lesser players.
Loew has faith that his captain's focus will be on success
His latest crushing disappointment -- losing Wednesday night's Champions League final against Manchester United on penalties -- is unlikely to have a long-term effect on the dynamic midfielder and could actually drive him on to lead his country to European Championship glory in Switzerland and Austria this summer.
This is the opinion of Joachim Loew, Ballack's international coach, who said in the aftermath of the dramatic spot-kick loss in Moscow that his captain would rebound from the defeat with a strong showing at Euro 2008.
German captain expected to bounce back
"He will suffer for two or three days, it is only natural that there is big disappointment. But now there is a new aim for him," Loew told reporters after Chelsea had been beaten 6-5 by the team which also pipped them to the league title just over a week ago.
Ballack's passion at Chelsea has endeared him to fans
"He played very strongly and appeared very fit," added Loew, who also spoke out on the fact that Ballack was the first Chelsea player in the shootout. "There is extra pressure to shoot the first penalty. Manchester were leading, it's almost all over if you miss. The way he delivered was very good."
With a strong display in the final and a well dispatched penalty in the shoot-out, Ballack again showed why Chelsea moved for his services in 2006 and enhanced his reputation further with the London club's faithful after overcoming a difficult first season in England and an injury-blighted second.
Previous defeats drive Ballack on
Appearing in a European final in a team consistently challenging for domestic and continental silverware could be seen as a testament to Ballack's powers of recovery.
Six years ago, he was a Champions league loser with the Bayer Leverkusen team which was defeated by a moment of Zinedine Zidane magic in Glasgow. After taking the lead against Real Madrid, Ballack and his Leverkusen team mates had to swallow a close 2-1 reverse, a victory for the Spanish team sealed with a sublime volley from the mercurial Frenchman.
Ballack was banned from the 2002 World Cup final
Only a week before, Bayer Leverkusen -- who had led the Bundesliga by nine points at one stage of the 2002 season -- lost the league title in Germany on the last day of the season. Adding weight to the superstition that bad things come in threes, Ballack was also on the losing side in the German Cup final that season.
Continuing his annus horribilis, Ballack went to that summer's World Cup in Japan and Korea and put in some match winning performances only to be suspended for the final that Germany eventually lost 2-0 to Brazil.
Bayern success never healed Euro pain
Some might say that picking up three Bundesliga titles and three German Cups with Bayern Munich in the years that followed may have broken any curse but wiping the floor with Germany's also-rans could never be compared with challenging for the top titles on the European and international stage.
Germany's 2006 World Cup defeat hit Ballack hard
In 2005, Germany had a great chance to win the Confederations Cup -- the precursor for the following year's World Cup contested by the championship hosts and the five FIFA federation winners -- and under Ballack's captaincy, it nearly came to pass. But a 3-2 semi-final loss to eventual winners Brazil ended that dream.
A year later, with a frenzied home nation bellowing them on, Ballack led Germany in the World Cup and was barely seconds from a penalty shoot-out which could have seen the hosts through to the final when Italy's Alessandro Del Piero ended the home team's campaign.
Ballack joins Chelsea to hunt elusive titles
The disappointment was not enough to dull his desire and Ballack moved to England in the quest for glory. Chelsea were reportedly paying him 163,000 euros ($321,000) a week for the opportunity to hunt down the trophies which had eluded him so far.
And while he may have come within touching distance once more of lifting the European Cup only to be denied it at the last minute, Ballack is expected to show his resilience once more at Euro 2008.
"Michael has made a big leap forward, he is physically even stronger than at the 2006 World Cup," said Loew. Germany will be hoping his mental strength has also expanded.