Germany worried over Ballack's fitness

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Germany is worried about the fitness of captain Michael Ballack, days before the hosts kick off the World Cup against Costa Rica.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Germany is worried about the fitness of captain Michael Ballack, days before the hosts kick off the World Cup against Costa Rica. Germany's key player has a strain in his right calf. Both Ballack and the team's staff were cautiously optimistic on Tuesday that the midfielder would be able to play on Friday. "I assume that I'll be able to play," said Ballack. Ballack missed Monday's practice after the players had reported to their Berlin base following a weekend at home after Friday's 3-0 win over Colombia. "I felt it after the Colombia game but then it got worse. I preferred to spend the Sunday with my family. It's nagging, but we'll get it under control," he added. Questions raised His words raised the question why the captain only reported the injury to team officials on Monday, leaving it untreated for two days. "I trained this morning in the fitness room and I'll resume training this afternoon,'' Ballack said. But he missed the training session later Tuesday. "Michael is making progress but he cannot take the full load,'' said German soccer federation spokesman Harald Stenger. Team doctors were hopeful that Ballack would resume training on Wednesday. Ballack, who signed a three-year contract with Chelsea on the day Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann announced his World Cup roster, has had troubled preparations. Series of injuries He first had a cold on the island of Sardinia that curtailed some of his training. When the team moved to Geneva, he hurt his left ankle, preventing him from taking part in full training sessions for five days. He did not play in Germany's 7-0 win over Luxembourg, but returned for the 2-2 draw against Japan and the win over Colombia, scoring a goal. After the game against Japan one week ago, Ballack let it be known that he was not in agreement with Klinsmann on the team's risky, attacking tactics. The game against Colombia saw a marked improvement in Germany's game. Missing the opening game of the World Cup at home would be a cruel twist of fate for Ballack, who could not play the 2002 final against Brazil because of suspension. Ballack has scored 31 goals in 65 games for Germany and his absence from the opening game would be a major blow. "Everything will be done to get him ready for Friday's game. We hope that he can train with the team again soon," said assistant coach Joachim Loew. The team also got a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (AP)

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