Ballack's replacement pleads for patience from German fans
Tuesday 25 May 2010
Germany midfielder Sami Khedira does not want to be compared with Michael Ballack, the man he is set to replace at the World Cup in South Africa this summer.
The Stuttgart midfielder is the likely beneficiary of Ballack's injury-enforced withdrawal from the squad, taking his place in the centre of the midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the 23-year-old says it would be wrong to compare the two.
"That would not be fair on Ballack," he said at Germany's training camp in Sudtirol yesterday. "After all he has done for German football, it is not justified to compare me with him.
"I still have to develop a lot to get to his level – he is a world-class player; I am a bit away from that.
"My aim is to reach that level, but I have my own game and my own character so cannot be compared with other players or Ballack."
Nevertheless, Khedira has been the focus of much of the attention since the news broke that Ballack would not be going to South Africa.
After leading Germany's Under-21s to glory at the European Championships last summer, Khedira is now set for his second major tournament, but he is no more nervous about it than he was in Sweden last summer.
"Why should I create more pressure or make myself go crazy?" he asked. "This is just what I want – I just want to play football. I want to help the team and, as I have said, it is very bitter that Ballack is out, but this is my chance and I have got to take it. I am trying to do that now with the way I present myself in training."
Khedira has yet to play with Schweinsteiger but he does not expect there to be any complications in forging an understanding with the Bayern Munich star, who will report for national team duty tomorrow, having played in the Champions League final this weekend.
"It is not an optimal situation and you cannot expect things to be perfect from the start, but when you have the will to achieve something, then we will find a good harmony," Khedira added.
"I think there will be no problem towards the end of training and the game [against Bosnia] in Frankfurt. I think everybody has seen this season what an excellent footballer he is.
"He has matured and developed a very solid game. Even in the Champions League final, he was always taking the initiative."
That is something Khedira is yet to learn, having made only three appearances for the senior Germany team so far.
But what he lacks in international experience, he more than makes up for in his drive and determination.
"I have been a professional footballer for many years and have made nearly 100 Bundesliga appearances and appeared in Champions League games so I do think I have plenty of international experience. I may not have the experience of 50 or 60 caps, but I always aim to play to win and that can compensate for a lot.
"I can let my game do the talking." Khedira was be trialled in the centre of the midfield yesterday when Germany took part in an unscheduled training match against FC Sudtirol, winners of the Italian fourth division this season.
Although their first real test comes against Hungary in Budapest at the weekend, national team manager Oliver Bierhoff said that the run-out would be an important part of Germany's World Cup preparations.
"We expect a tough game," he said. "The coaches want to test a serious situation against an opponent that we don't know."
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