Former Germany captain, Michael Ballack, believes Germany have the talent to win the World Cup, but they have to prove their title credentials in the big games.
Ballack can look back at a great career, but failed to win a major trophy with his country. Before retiring in 2012, he led his country to the runners-up spot at the 2002 World Cup, as well as to third place on home soil in 2006 and finished his final major tournament, the EURO 2008, in second place again.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com the former Chelsea and Bayern Munich midfielder spoke about Germany’s title chances, his World Cup favourites and his overall expectations for the tournament in Brazil.
“It’s tough for anyone to be successful in South America. No European country has won a World Cup there and it’s not going to be any easier for the European teams these days either,” Ballack said.
“Along with Spain, though, Germany are a team on another level from most others. We’ll have to wait and see if they can prove that again, but the talent is most definitely there.”
Germany has finished as runners-up in 2002, and became third in 2006 and 2010 respectively, but Ballack believes his home nation have enough experienced players to win the title.
“This time they also have to prove that in the games that really matter like semi-finals or finals - if they can make it that far - that they also have that little bit of luck that makes you a winner,” he continued.
“If things go Germany’s way this time and the trophy is there to be won, those players will also have that experience from previous tournaments.
“Many of them also won the UEFA Champions League with FC Bayern or reached the final with Borussia Dortmund. That gives you confidence and the players should take that with them to the World Cup.”
Having experienced a home World Cup himself, Ballack also sees Brazil with a chance to win the World Cup, but only if they can deal with the enormous amount of pressure they will experience.
“Yes! At the Confederations Cup, they proved what they can produce at home. That’s why they’re one of the favourites for the trophy,” he added.
“Lots of players are used to playing at a high level, and the Brazilian team this year will have lots of top players. However, none of them will have played in a World Cup at home, and the expectation levels on them will be enormous. They have to face that.”
When asked about his other favourites, apart from Germany and Brazil, the 37-year-old responded: “Spain, as the defending champions; I’d also say Italy, a team that Germany always have problems against.
“With France, you’d have to see how they’ve come on by the start of the tournament, as they struggled in qualification.
“But South American countries like Argentina or Chile could also cause a surprise, as they’re comfortable playing there and will feel like they’re playing at home.”
Finally, Ballack, who will work as a TV pundit in Brazil, gave his overall expectation for the spectacle in the summer and hopes for a ‘fantastic World Cup’.
“You expect great football, for the Brazilians to be excellent hosts and for Brazil to transmit that atmosphere they create, and the way they live and breathe football, to the rest of the world,” he explained.
“Brazilians are emotional people, football has huge meaning to them and I think we can all look forward a fantastic World Cup.”
Both, Brazil and Germany have reached the World Cup final seven times, but while the Selecao have won the trophy five times, the Europeans only triumphed three times.
What’s your expectations from Brazil and Germany? Have your say in the comment section below.