Cape Town: The loss of Michael Ballack ahead of the World Cup has been a blessing in disguise for Germany, according to former captain Lothar Matthaus.
Ballack was set to take the captain’s armband in South Africa, but his World Cup dream died when he injured his ankle playing for Chelsea against Portsmouth in the FA Cup final at the end of May.
It was seen as a huge blow for German hopes in South Africa, but their young side has coped without him.
“I’m genuinely upset for Michael Ballack, but I have to say his absence has helped Germany,” Matthaus, who captained the team when they beat 2010 quarter-final opponents Argentina in the 1990 final, told a website.
“I don’t mean that in a spiteful way, but Ballack was arguably holding up a number of players who’ve now blossomed.
“Each of them has taken on a little more responsibility. Germany are playing with far more pace.
“Ballack often took a lot of pace out of the game, but that wouldn’t fit the mentality of this young team. Missing out is a personal catastrophe for Michael, but it’s benefited Germany.”
Matthaus added that the spirt installed in the team by coach Joachim Loew could be enough to see them beat the more experienced Argentina here on Saturday.
“The biggest factors in Germany’s favour are their team spirit and the attacking strength they’ve shown so far,” he said.
“Taken together, those two aspects could be enough to win. But on the other hand, everyone knows all about Argentina’s quality.
“Germany’s best bet is not to batten down the hatches, but to continue expressing themselves.
“There’s nothing to lose, because they’ve already met expectations. Everything from now on is a bonus. This is a team for the future, and they’re here to learn.”
After being ruled out of the World Cup, Ballack was released on a free transfer by Chelsea and has since signed a two-contract with his old team Bayer Leverkusen.