World Cup Countdown: Ballack assumes cheerleading role

20 days to go

Sidelined Germany midfielder Michael Ballack has turned his attentions to inspiring his compatriots as they continue their preparations.

The 33-year-old visited the German's Sicilian training camp this week, encouraging his team-mates with his own World Cup dreams at an end. "You have now got to forget about my injury and look forward," said the midfielder, who injured his right ankle against Portsmouth last weekend, "You are a strong team, whoever plays. I am certain you will play a good and successful World Cup."

The Serbia coach, Radomir Antic, has overlooked the Chelsea pair Slobodan Rajkovic and Nemanja Matic as he cut his squad to 24. Defenders Nemanja Vidic, of Manchester United, and Branislav Ivanovic, of Chelsea, both make the plane, as does United winger Zoran Tosic, who Antic believes could be a surprise package. "Tosic could be one of the revelations of the tournament," he said. "He will be a valuable asset in our bid."

Highlights of the day

Game of the day

"It would be a game of musical chairs."

Sweating over the fitness of William Gallas, the outgoing France manager, Raymond Domenech, likens his defensive tinkering to the highlight of many a child's birthday party. But if Gallas loses, might he throw a tantrum and have to leave the event without a piece of cake?

Quote of the day

"I had hoped [to return earlier], but the doctor soon took the wind out of my sails."

Chelsea's Michael Ballack discovers revolutionary treatment won't reawaken his World Cup dream.

Nickname of the day

"I was always the 'soldier boy'. They'd do the American soldier voice, or like in the movies, a robot, like Arnold Schwarzenegger."

The US striker Hercules Gomez divulges his nickname. Presumably he'll be hoping his manager, Bob Bradley, doesn't terminate his dreams when whittling down his final squad.

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