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We are hitting top form, insists Germany´s Ballack

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 Jun 2008

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Germany captain Michael Ballack netted the winner in his side’s 2-1 victory over Serbia on Saturday in their final warm-up before Euro 2008 and insisted his team are approaching top form.

Chelsea midfielder Ballack unleashed a free-kick on 82 minutes to complete Germany’s come-back after veteran striker Oliver Neuville had grabbed an equaliser 15 minutes from time.

“We really wanted to win this game,” Ballack told Geman sports agency SID.

“It would have been so bad if we had finished with a defeat.

“Everyone gave their all.

“We were a lot better than our draw with Belarus last week, we are not 100 percent yet, but definitely on the right path.”

Serbia had taken the lead through midfielder Bosko Jankovic’s 18th minute first-half goal before the Germans fought back.

With less than a week until the Germans begin their Euro 2008 campaign in Group B against Poland in Klagenfurt, Austria, on June 8, this was the result coach Joachim Loew wanted.

After his side surrendered a two-goal lead in their 2-2 draw with minnows Belarus last Tuesday night in Kaiserslautern, Loew had promised an improved performance and his side delivered despite their early set back.

“For our morale, our belief and our self-confidence, it is always good to win a game like this,” said a relieved Loew.

“We had to work hard and went to our limits, there is still plenty of room for improvement, but it was a step in the right direction.

“I have the impression we will be completely ready for next week.”

Although Serbia – who lost out to Portugal and Poland in Euro 2008 qualification – led the home side for most of the game Germany largely dominated in front of 54,000 spectators.

“I am happy with the result, because we gave Germany a few problems,” said Serbia coach Miroslav Djukic.

“We faded at the end and lost possession in their half, but I am optimistic about the future.”

The hosts went behind on 18 minutes when a superb pass from midfielder Sasa Ilic split the defence and centre-back Christoph Metzelder was sluggish to respond as Jankovic sprinted into the penalty area.

The 24-year-old made no mistake and drilled his shot through the legs of Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to put his side ahead.

“The goal was my fault,” admitted Real Madrid’s Metzelder, who has suffered with a foot injury for most of this year.

“I took the wrong decision, my performance improved and although it is not quite good enough yet, I will be ready when the tournament begins.”

And having scored his first international goal for nearly two years, striker Oliver Neuville knows he pushed his case for selection in the one area where Germany have an embarrassment of riches.

“I have shown the coach that he could count on me,” said the 35-year-old.

“But the victory for the team was far important, everything is not quite ready, but I am optimistic we will be in top form for the game against Poland.”

Germany will also face Croatia and co-hosts Austria in Group B of Euro 2008.

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