Ballack's form gives Germany Euro 2008 confidence

Germany players enjoyed two days off with family and friends on Sunday and Monday ahead of Euro 2008 which they enter in a confident mood due to strong form of captain Michael Ballack, dpa reported.

Saturday's 2-1 comeback win against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen boosted team morale one week ahead of the continental tournament.

There were still some deficits on the defensice end but everyone was impressed by the captain Ballack.

The 31-year-old led the team and scored the 82nd-minute winner after substitute Oliver Neuville had earlier cancelled out Serbia's first-half lead from Bosko Jankovic.

"Ballack electrifies everyone...He can lead us to the title," said the Bild am Sonntag Sunday paper in praise of the Chelsea midfielder.

German Chanellor Angela Merkel said that "Ballack played true to his role as captain" and coach Joachim Loew also heaped praise on his key player.

"Michael Ballack permanently led the team on the attack. He is in great shape. He scored a deciding goal. He had a strong presence on the field," said Loew.

Ballack, who is still in search of his firsdt major trophy, could make the difference for the three-time champion Germany at the June 7-29 tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

Germany moves into its Swiss tournament camp on Tuesday and plays its first match on Sunday against Poland. The other group B opponents are Croatia and co-hosts Austria.

Ballack said the win Saturday, four days after a 2-2 draw with belarus, came at the right time.

"It would not have been nice to lose this last match. Every player gave it all he had. We are a good team but we have not reached 100 per cent yet," said Ballack.

The game came at the end of a 12-day training camp in Majorca with the last fine-tuning set to take place in Switzerland.

" Serbia were the right opponent for us because they play very similar to our group stage opponent Croatia. We are happy that we could turn the match and enter the two days off with a victory. That is good for the confidence," said Loew.

"We need to improve a few things in the last fine-tuning."

Loew did not want to give a ranking but the mediocre showings of Mario Gomez and Kevin Kuranyi should make the Bayern Munich duo of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski first-choice forwards, with Podolski showing again on Saturday that he is also an option on the left wing.

Christoph Metzelder remains the weakest link in defence as he has not fully regained his form from a long injury absence. Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann did better than against Belarus, with Loew praising "his charisma."

Germany would love to go all the way at Euro 2008 and also appears to have the key assets again for which it was feared by the whole football - physical strength and stamina.

"We know our strength. We can power on for 90 minutes. We can meet the opponent with high speed and fast passing and can create chances," said general manager Oliver Bierhoff.

"But we also know that we can't afford to be careless in defence."

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