Germany captain Michael Ballack insists there is still room for improvement as his side prepare to take on a Croatia team with high ambitions of their own.
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Germany captain Michael Ballack insists there is still room for improvement as his side prepare to play a Croatia team with high ambitions of their own.
Germany kicked off with a 2-0 win against Poland on Sunday after Croatia had beaten co-hosts Austria 1-0 in Vienna. The two victors now meet in Klagenfurt with top spot in Group B up for grabs. "I'm expecting a tougher task than against Poland because Croatia want the title and will give us a real game," Ballack said. "They will be more pro-active and push hard for victory. After all, they beat England twice [in qualifying]."
Croatia also have some pedigree against Germany in tournament matches, having defeated them 3-0 in the 1998 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. Ballack, though, sees no reason for his coach Joachim Löw to make changes for Thursday's game. "When you start with three points and a good performance, the coach doesn't have much reason to alter the lineup," said the 31-year-old, who is enjoyed a calm build-up. "I spent the whole of Monday in the hotel and relaxed. In the evening I watched both games." Ballack was suitably impressed by the Netherlands who scalped Italy 3-0. "The tournament needed that kind of big game. It came at exactly the right time."
The Chelsea FC midfielder is a marked man for the Mannschaft, and believes the special attention he receives gives other players room to shine. "It is often difficult for me because amazing things are always expected of me, even though I get special treatment from opponents," Ballack explained. "The strength of our team is that the other players make the most of the gaps and exploit them. Against Poland, it was Lukas Podolski. Maybe it will be someone else on Thursday."