Euro 2008 – Germany v Spain preview


Germany will be sweating on the fitness of captain Michael Ballack as they prepare to face Spain the Euro 2008 final.

FOOTBALL Germany v Spain match ball - 0

Ballack, Germany’s inspirational figure for much of Euro 2008, missed training on Friday and Saturday to nurse a calf injury and will have a fitness test before the game.

His absence would be a major blow to Germany’s hopes of a fourth European title. The midfielder’s match-winning goals against Austria in the group stage and Portugal in the quarter-finals ensured their progress in the tournament.

If Ballack fails to recover in time it would leave coach Joachim Loew contemplating a major reshuffle of his midfield.

There is no obvious replacement for a player who missed the 2002 World Cup final through suspension. Loew said Tim Borowski or Bastian Schweinsteiger might take over.

Schweinsteiger is certain to start, whatever his position. Along with fellow attacking midfielder Lukas Podolski and striker Miroslav Klose, he would have an extra goalscoring burden on him if Ballack missed out against a buoyant Spain.

Luis Aragones’s men have been the most entertaining side at the tournament, driven forward by a midfield blend of pace, flair and ball skills that have run their opponents ragged.

Having dispensed with world champions Italy on penalties, Cesc Fabregas, along with Barcelona pair Andres Iniesta and Xavi, turned Russia inside out in a 3-0 semi-final victory.

They will look to reproduce their neat short-passing game and possession football to inflict the same fatal fatigue on Germany, who would do well to remember the words of Russia coach Guus Hiddink.

“For an hour we could move and after that it was…very difficult to play them,” lamented the Dutchman. “They know if they keep on touching the ball, at the end the opponent is getting fatigued and then they know they can score.”

With David Villa almost certainly ruled out by injury, Fernando Torres is set to be the lone striker as Spain bid for a second European title after their 1964 success on home soil.

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