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Football

Ballack is handed German captaincy


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Ballack was one of the few Germans to shine in a disappointing Euro 2004
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Michael Ballack
Oliver Kahn
Juergen Klinsmann

Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Ballack will take over from his club goalkeeper Oliver Kahn as captain of Germany in this week's friendly against Austria in Vienna.

Germany's new coach Juergen Klinsmann told a press conference:"I wanted as the captain an outfield player who was in contact with all members of the team.

" Ballack is exactly the linkman I had imagined."

Klinsmann added: "I spoke with both players about this and both accepted the decision.

"Kahn will deputize for Ballack in future."

Ballack said: "I am looking forward to this new challenge and I'm happy that Jurgen Klinsmann has placed his trust in me.

" I hope I can help us to achieve our aim in 2006. I am often criticized for not being vocal enough but I am in the middle of the pitch and can influence things from there," he added.

Kahn took over the German captaincy in June 2001 from Oliver Bierhoff and led the side 38 times.

However, the 35-year-old endured a difficult season with Bayern in 2003/04 and questions had been asked about his ability to motivate the team.

Ballack was one of the few German players to shine in a disappointing 2004 European championships in Portugal.

His goals -- and Kahn's goalkeeping -- played a key part in getting Germany to the final of the 2002 World Cup, where they lost 2-0 to Brazil.

Happy Huth

Chelsea's Robert Huth received a surprise 20th birthday present when Klinsmann named him in the squad for the friendly.

Klinsmann, who also named Bayern Munich veteran Thomas Linke, acted quickly after Leverkusen defender Jens Nowotny and Hertha Berlin stopper Arne Friedrich were forced out by injury.

Huth, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Wednesday, has been part of the under-21 set-up but this is his first call up to the full national side.

The stocky defender has looked impressive when given a chance in the Chelsea shirt but the constant big signings mean a first team spot at Stamford Bridge is unlikely.

Linke, 34, has won 42 caps for Germany but has not donned the national jersey since September 2002 when Germany defeated Lithuania 2-0.

Klinsmann also handed a late call-up to Schalke 04 striker Gerald Asamoah.

The 25-year-old Asamoah has also been drafted in from the international wilderness to replace the injured Werder Bremen striker Miroslav Klose.

Asamoah has played 18 times for Germany but won his last cap back in February 2002.


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