Ballack Calls for German Dominance Against Minnows Liechtenstein | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 28.03.2009
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Ballack Calls for German Dominance Against Minnows Liechtenstein

Germany captain Michael Ballack wants a solid win as much as a goal-bonanza on Saturday when his side tackles European minnows Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier following back-to-back home defeats.

Michael Ballack

Ballack remains outspoken but his comments are intended to galvanize his team

Defeats to Norway in February and England last November have dented the team's confidence and the national team needs a convincing win over tiny Liechtenstein which is 151st in FIFA's world rankings.

Germany have not suffered back-to-back home defeats since 1956 and Ballack says only a convincing win over Liechtenstein will suffice.

The principality is just 160 square kilometers and the national team is largely made up of part-time footballers.

Germany are top of their qualifying group and are unbeaten with three wins and a draw to give them a four-point lead over their main group rivals Russia.

But the Germans travel to Moscow in October for the tie which could decide Group 4 and Ballack says it is crucial Germany win both their next two games against Liechtenstein and then Wales in Cardiff on April 1.

"Even if we don't win these games by much, the result is very important," said Ballack. "We must win these games and stay on course to be group leaders in the autumn when we travel to Moscow.

"We have laid the foundations for some important games which, figuratively speaking, will decide the life or death of who reaches the World Cup.

"We can play good football, but in addition we have to have discipline and order," said Ballack who will win his 91st cap on Saturday. "It is part of our mentality and if we don't have it then we struggle, even against the likes of Norway."

Germany lack dominance, claims captain

Ballack says Germany must start asserting themselves against opponents -- starting with Liechtenstein in Leipzig's Zentralstadion.

Germany's Michael Ballack, center, and Norway's Per Skjelbred, left, and Christian Grindheim challenge for the ball during the friendly soccer match between Germany and Norway in Duesseldorf, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009.

Ballack and Co. struggled against Norway in February

"We are lacking in dominance," said Chelsea midfielder Ballack, who captained Germany to their 1-0 defeat by Norway in February. "And recently results have also not been good, that is something we have to change.

"This has a lot to do with physical condition, but also with quality,” he added. "We are in a phase where we don't put teams under enough pressure."

Ballack believes Germany will qualify for South Africa, but says the team needs to use games like these to make sure they can step up to the challenges they will face from the world's top teams in the republic.

"We will qualify for the World Cup and we will go past the group stage even if it gets tight. But then come the matches against the big teams. We will have to play at a higher level against the type of teams like Spain, who we lost to at the Euro.

"Everybody must have an eye on the bigger picture -- that is important.

"We must now set the foundations so that at the World Cup we can win the so-called life or death matches. This is what I am trying to point out as the captain."

Ballack unrepentent but more flexible

Ballack's rallying call ahead of Saturday's game suggests that he will not shy away from speaking out, despite recent public arguments which threatened his role as team leader.

Joachim Loew and Michael Ballack

Coach and captain had a very public spat last year

However, having sparked a media spat with coach Joachim Loew last autumn by accusing him of not showing senior players enough respect and loyalty, Ballack says he has not changed his leadership style, but is more flexible.

"My leadership style is the same as it always was and I haven't changed it," he said. "I have developed it, but not changed it.

"I am always open to new ideas, but you can't always be right."

And Ballack says certain differences of opinion are healthy in a team environment.

"There must be some tensions in a team, which you can't always wipe away or smooth over,” he added. "Things aren't always full of sunshine, there has to be friction at times as well."

Germany expect goal avalanche in Leipzig

Happy or at each other's throats, Liechtenstein should present no problem to Germany who have won all three of their previous meetings, scored 23 goals compared to their opponents' three and it was 6-0 to the Germans when the teams last met in September.

Germany's Lukas Podolski reacts after scoring a goal

Podolski will be looking to celebrate a hatful of goals

With Bayern Munich veteran striker Miroslav Klose out with an ankle injury, Stuttgart's Mario Gomez will partner Bayern's Lukas Podolski up front with a flurry of goals expected from the home side.

At the other end, goalkeeper Rene Alder is out with an elbow injury and Hanover's Robert Enke will take his place in the Germany goal for the first time since damaging his hand last autumn.

Enke, 31, could certainly do with keeping a blank sheet as his club Hanover are sliding down the Bundesliga table.

A broken hand kept him out from October until the Bundesliga's late January restart after the winter break and he has conceded 31 goals in 15 league games - 11 in seven matches before he broke his hand and 20 in the eight since his return.

But with Liechtenstein yet to score a goal after three qualifying games and having conceded eight - their single point so far came from a 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan in Baku last year - Germany should have few problems.

And as Ballack said ominously in light of their defeats to Norway and England, Germany "simply have to play better and put in a better performance".

"And it will happen," he added.

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