Fight for the Captaincy: A Power Struggle on the German National Team?
German football team captain Philip Lahm has thrown down to the gauntlet to injured playmaker Michael Ballack by saying he has no intention of handing back the captaincy voluntarily. The team has performed so well in the World Cup that Ballack's return is starting to look doubtful.
A power struggle has broken out in the German team ahead of Wednesday's World Cup semifinal against Spain after defender Philipp Lahm said he had no intention of handing the captaincy back to Michael Ballack, the playmaker who is missing the tournament because of injury.
Lahm's statement is an open challenge to Ballack, who had been German captain since 2004 and who would have led the team in South Africa if he hadn't suffered a serious ankle injury in a tackle while playing for Chelsea in the English FA Cup final in May.
Germany coach Joachim Löw gave the captaincy to Lahm for the tournament. Löw has not come out in support of Ballack in the current debate and did not try to stop Lahm's comments from being published.
Ballack, who visited the national team to give them moral support ahead of Saturday's quarterfinal against Argentina, flew back to Germany on Monday night, two days ahead of Wednesday's crucial semifinal clash with Spain.
The German team doctor said Ballack's injury had been healing faster than expected and that he could now begin the next phase in his rehabilitation, for which he needed to be back in Germany.
But the sudden departure reinforced the impression of a rift in the team which most commentators say has played much better without Ballack.
Team manager Oliver Bierhoff criticized Lahm on Tuesday, saying the timing of his remarks ahead of an important match were "unfortunate."
"Philipp Lahm is the World Cup capitain and Michael Ballack is still the captain -- that's how we see it and that's how it was decided with the team council," Bierhoff told a news conference. He added that there was no discord in the team.
cro -- with wire reports
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