Germany needs swift improvement ahead of Euro 2008: Ballack

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Germany needs to improve swiftly after recent mediocre showings if it wants to be a factor at Euro 2008 football, says captain Michael Ballack.

Updated: April 15, 2008 12:04 IST
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Basle (Switzerland):

Germany needs to improve swiftly after recent mediocre showings if it wants to be a factor at Euro 2008 football, captain Michael Ballack said on the eve of friendly with co-hosts Switzerland.

"We need a team which is top fit and can play together. That is not the case right now. I hope that it will change by Euro," the Chelsea midfielder told a news conference Tuesday.

Ballack said that a turnaround must come Wednesday to boost morale.

"It is the last major test. Every country wants to show ambitions it has," Ballack said.

Germany are record Euro winners with three titles, but won not a single match at the finals in 2000 and 2004 after lifting the trophy in 1996.

Coach Joachim Loew's team qualified early for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland, and it was then followed by a 3-1 home defeat against the Czech Republic, a meagre 0-0 with Wales and a 3-0 win in Austria after being outplayed in the first half.

A defeat against Switzerland could end the World Cup 2006 euphoria for good, Ballack seemingly fears. And the final match before Loew nominates the squad in May could highlight problems and injuries woes in the final countdown.

Number one goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is benched at his club Arsenal, defender Christoph Metzelder injured and midfielders Torsten Frings, Bernd Schneider and Bastian Schweinsteiger far from the form of 2006.

Loew said that Schweinsteiger is aware that "he must improve" while general manager Oliver Bierhoff expects "a good performance" from Lehmann in what he acknowledges is a problem factor in the team.

However, Bierhoff is optimistic in general about Germany's chances at the 16-team event and Ballack's leadership quality in particular.

"We want to reach the peak and become European champions. I am confident, I have faith in the team. He (Ballack) will lead the team in a big way and make his mark at Euro," Bierhoff said.

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