'Germany must raise our game'
Berlin - Germany captain Michael Ballack on Thursday urged the Euro 2008 finalists to raise their game for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein to banish the memories of their recent defeats.
The 32-year-old Chelsea star is demanding a raised effort in Leipzig from his side who have lost their last two home games: a 2-1 defeat to England last November and a 1-0 defeat to Norway in February.
Germany have not suffered back-to-back home defeats since 1956 and Ballack says only a convincing win over Liechenstein, ranked 151st in the world, will suffice.
"We simply have to play better and put in a better performance," Ballack told sports magazine Kicker.
"And it will happen."
Germany are top of their qualifying group and are unbeaten with three wins and a draw to give them a four-point lead over their main group rivals Russia.
But the Germans travel to Moscow in October for the tie which could decide the group and Ballack says it is crucial Germany win both their next two games against Liechtenstein and then Wales in Cardiff on April 1.
"Even if we don't win these games by much, the result is very important," said Ballack.
"We must win these games and stay on course to be group leaders in the autumn when we travel to Moscow.
"We have laid the foundations for some important games which, figuratively speaking, will decide the life or death of who reaches the World Cup.
"As captain, that is something I am trying to point out."
And Ballack says he has no worries about whether Germany will reach next year's World Cup which takes place in South Africa from June 11 to July 11.
"We will qualify for the World Cup," insisted Ballack.
"We will get through the qualifying group, even if things get a bit tight.
"After that, we will meet the big teams and we will have to play at a higher level against the type of teams like Spain, who we lost to at the Euro.
"Everybody must have an eye on the bigger picture, that is important."
Germany's defeat to Norway in February shocked the national media and the squad can ill-afford another upset against minnows Liechtenstein.
"We can play good football, but in addition we have to have discipline and order," said Ballack who will win his 91st cap on Saturday.
"It is part of our mentality and if we don't have it then we struggle, even against the likes of Norway."
Having sparked a media spat with coach Joachim Loew last autumn by accusing him of not showing senior players enough respect and loyalty, Ballack says he has not changed his leadership style, but is more flexible.
"My leadership style is the same as it always was and I haven't changed it," he said.
"I have developed it, but not changed it.
"I am always open to new ideas, but you can't always be right." And Ballack says certain differences of opinion are healthy in a team environment.
"There must be some tensions in a team, which you can't always wipe away or smooth over.
"Things aren't always full of sunshine, there has to be friction at times as well."