Ballack facing tough battle to get back into Germany side

Berlin: Germany were at their dazzling best when they crushed Azerbaijan 6-1 to continue their perfect start to Euro 2012 qualifying on Tuesday, sending out a clear message that absent captain Michael Ballack is not being missed.

Germany`s fast-paced style and the clinical finishing that was so impressive in their exciting run to the World Cup third spot in July was again evident in Cologne.

"We are having fun, enjoying football and scoring goals," said defender Philipp Lahm.

The 33-year-old Ballack, who missed the World Cup due to an ankle injury and has yet to be recalled because of a lack of match practice, faces a tough battle to get back into Joachim Loew`s side.

"It`s fun watching this team play. You really feel that the team is well-oiled," Loew told reporters after the game. "The combinations work very well."

It is difficult to see how Loew, who earlier in the week said Ballack was still part of his plans, could integrate him in this fast and young team with holding midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, 26, and Sami Khedira, 23, in superb form.

While being confirmed as captain, Ballack has also been told he will need to win back his starting spot at the expense of one of the two midfielders -- an unlikely prospect at present.

Real Madrid`s gifted Mesut Ozil has also successfully taken over some of the playmaking duties further down the pitch of the Bayer Leverkusen captain, who opted not to attend the match in Cologne.

"Even after such a game, I still believe there is room for improvement," said striker Miroslav Klose, who netted twice in the game to join Joachim Streich with 55 goals in second place on Germany`s top scorers list, behind Gerd Mueller.

"There is still a bit missing in our stamina so it is important not to rest and take that next step," he said, with the Bundesliga having only seen two matchdays so far.

Germany next host Turkey, who have also won two out of two games in Group A, on Oct. 8 in Berlin. With Ballack having turned 34 by then, his time in the team could be running out faster than a Germany attack.

Bureau Report

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