Ballack’s silverware heartache continues

aving lost May’s Champions League final with Chelsea, Michael Ballack again suffered silverware heartbreak on Sunday as Germany lost the Euro 2008 final 1-0 to Spain.

After the Blues missed out to Manchester United in Moscow, the German captain tasted bitter defeat for the second time in as many months in Vienna as a first-half strike by Liverpool’s Fernando Torres broke German hearts.

“It is very sad to lose when one has come such a long way,” said the 31-year-old, who also lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in February’s League Cup final.

“All the team battled away. This tournament has come at the end of the season and physically it has been tough. However, today (Sunday) we have made too many errors.”

Sunday’s defeat was not the first time in his career Ballack has lost a European final to Spanish opposition.

In 2002, he was in the Bayer Leverkusen team which went down 2-1 to Real Madrid in the Champions League final when Spanish captain Iker Casillas was also a winner on that occasion having come off the bench.

But Ballack’s performance against Spain made a mockery of the calf injury which had threatened to deny him another appearance in a major tournament final on the eve of the match.

Having missed Germany’s 2002 World Cup final defeat by Brazil through suspension, he damaged his right calf last Friday during Germany’s final training session.

With 87 caps to his name and 38 goals – including two at Euro 2008 – Ballack’s form has been instrumental in getting Germany into the final even though his career was threatened by injury last season.

He missed eight months of football in 2007 with a persistent ankle problem and only returned to the Germany team for February’s 3-0 friendly win over Austria.

He had missed ten games for his country as his side became the first to qualify for Euro 2008 without him, but he made up for it in the tournament’s finals as he played a key role in getting Germany to the Vienna final.

He showed how little his calf muscle was bothering him as early as the eighth minute when he out-stripped the Spanish defence, but no one was there to meet his cross and had a shot at goal blocked on 25 minutes.

When his side’s defence was broken by Torres’ first-half goal, Ballack was left bloodied and needed stitches for an eye gash just after the half hour mark and picked up a yellow card for a heavy challenge on Cesc Fabregas.

He had Germany’s best chance of the game when his shot grazed Casillas’ near post.

This could be Ballack’s last chance to win a major international tournament, but there has been no talk from the big man with his Chelsea contract set to expire in June 2009.

And Ballack’s Germany team-mate former Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger said he hopes Germany can use the experience for the 2010 World Cup.

“We are all disappointed, he has played in many finals and lost some of them,” said Hitzlsperger.

“Hopefully we can get him in another final in two years time, he has that quality to lift the side.”


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