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Ballack injury hampers Germany
June 29, 2008 18:32 IST
An injury to Germany [Images] captain Michael Ballack [Images] threatened to rob the Euro 2008 [Images] final of one its most exciting players on Saturday, just as soccer's great and good were drooling over the attacking play so far.
A calf problem meant the midfielder was doubtful for Sunday's showpiece in Vienna against Spain, who also looked poised to be without tournament top scorer David Villa [Images] through injury.
Ballack's driving runs and aerial ability were expected to test a Spanish defence which has so far been largely untroubled in their five games at the tournament.
"Our medical team will be working with him round the clock but we have to think seriously about alternatives," Germany coach Joachim Loew told a news conference.
The absences of Ballack and Villa would be a blow to fans of soccer, not just the thousands of Germans and Spanish who will descend on the Austria capital for the 1845 GMT kick off.
The three-week event has up to now produced flowing forward play rarely seen in the usually cagey international game.
"I am pleased and delighted that we've been able to convey this wonderful view of football broadcast throughout the world," he said.
"I thank Germany and Spain in particular and hope for a wonderful match with great goals, great saves and attacking football."
Former Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer, who won Euro 72, seemed pleased order had been restored following Greece's shock triumph four years ago with a series of dull 1-0 wins.
"I think everyone involved in the tournament can be very happy. The final is two classic football countries in Germany and Spain. It really is a big success," he said.
"I hope it will be an exciting final, an attractive and high scoring final. Maybe a draw, extra-time then penalties with Germany having the better nerves."
Beckenbauer, speaking before the news of the injury, also said Ballack could make the difference for the three-times champions.
The only other clouds on the horizon were the ones that caused torrential rain in Vienna in recent days and the debate over the hosting of the next European Championship in 2012.
Ukraine and Poland are due to hold the next tournament but Platini said the event would be taken off them if stadiums were not completed in Warsaw and Kiev.
The 2012 finals look poised to be the last with 16 teams after a meeting of senior officials on Saturday recommended the tournament should be increased to 24 teams from 2016.
In between summits and news conferences, Platini found time to invite the Spanish goalkeeper he embarrassed in the Euro 84 final to be his guest at Sunday's game.
Platini scored the opening goal of France's [Images] 2-0 win over the Spanish with a free kick that squirmed under the body of keeper Luis Arconada in Spain's last appearance at a major final.
Goalkeeping errors of this kind are now universally known in France as an "Arconada".
"I was thinking while I was shaving this morning about how I took the trophy off the Spanish 24 years ago but could be handing it back to them tomorrow," Platini said.
"When we called Arconada up to ask if he wanted to come and watch the game, he asked if it was a joke. But I think it's nice to be able to invite a former rival."
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008