Sport Everton midfielder Ross Barkley will be offered a new improved contract for his breakthrough into the first team this season

Barkley has broken into the first-team this season and has been tipped for inclusion in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad after making his England debut in September

Ballack backed by Löw to bounce back from injury and earn Germany recall

Germany coach Joachim Löw has said midfielder Michael Ballack can still return to the national team despite his latest injury setback. Ballack turns 34 later this month. He missed the World Cup with an ankle injury and now faces a six-week lay-off with a new leg injury.

Ballack's Germany career may be over says Low

Germany coach Joachim Low has raised doubts as to whether Michael Ballack will ever return to the national team following his latest injury setback.

Lee Dixon: It's a real no-brainer... Walcott will learn the winger's tricks that befuddle a full-back

This season he has been getting in behind defenders much more, and scoring goals because of it

France and Italy confront World Cup hangovers, too

It's not just England needing a good start to Euro qualifiers, while it's more hope than expectation for other home nations

Ballack misery in Leverkusen's humbling defeat

Michael ballack was substituted just after an hour as Bayer Leverkusen were crushed 6-3 at home by Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Bundesliga.

Ballack left out by Germany

Michael Ballack has been left out of the Germany squad for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Belgium and Azerbaijan.

Ballack: I will be German captain again, no matter what Lahm says

Michael Ballack has warned Bayern Munich defender Philipp Lahm he fully intends to captain Germany in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. The 33-year-old, who joined former club Bayer Leverkusen on a free transfer in the summer, was ruled out of the World Cup by an ankle injury suffered on his last appearance for Chelsea, in the FA Cup final at Wembley in May.

Ancelotti welcomes back Essien, but what is his best position?

The £18.3m deal to sign the Brazilian midfielder Ramires has still to be completed but the return of Michael Essien to full fitness could prove a more telling development for Chelsea, come the end of the season.

The Fans' World Cup Verdict

Pank Overbeek (Netherlands)

27, manager of a Dutch bar in London, originally from Alphen aan den Rijn

We are very excited – I didn't think we would get further than the quarter-finals.

Low defends Lahm captaincy claims

Germany coach Joachim Low has defended his captain Philipp Lahm ahead of their World Cup semi-final encounter against Spain in Durban later today.

Schweinsteiger insists Spain are favourites

Bastian Schweinsteiger insists Spain are the favourites for tomorrow's World Cup semi-final encounter in Durban, despite Germany being the most impressive team in South Africa so far.

Lahm will not relinquish captaincy to Ballack

Germany's World Cup harmony was disrupted today after skipper Philipp Lahm said he had no intention of willingly giving up the captain's armband when Michael Ballack returns to fitness.

England made it easy for Germany, says Maradona

Argentina v Germany, 3.00pm, Cape Town, BBC1

Barcelona want to sign Germany star Ozil

Reports suggest Barcelona have stepped up their interest in Werder Bremen playmaker Mesut Ozil and are willing to offer cash plus Alex Hleb to secure the Germany international’s services.

Germans thrive when under pressure

"The World Cups of 20 and 16 years ago were garden parties compared to what is involved now, with the pressures that have developed. The increase in pressure seems continuous from one competition to the next. Now it is almost completely out of hand. In nearly all the countries of the world football is the most popular sport and today the media bring it to the masses and bring the feelings and demands of the masses back to those working in the game. It is my great fear that one day the World Cup will no longer be the sporting event [people] enjoy, it will become too big, too important, too hard on the people concerned, just impossible to go on with."

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