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Beckenbauer: Ballack will win it for Germans; IT'S KAISER v THE KOP! THE FINAL: Germany v Spain Today, 7.45PM UEFA EURO 2008 Austria-Switzerland.

Byline: By Simon COSGROVE

FRANZ BECKENBAUER believes Chelsea's Michael Ballack is the man who can win the Euro 2008 title for Germany tonight.

German legend Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as a player and manager, sees Ballack as the key man in Vienna this evening.

Ballack, the German captain, is desperate to overcome a calf muscle injury which has prevented him training since Friday, so that he can line up against Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas in a Premier League midfield battle.

It's a contest that Beckenbauer, nicknamed The Kaiser, expects Ballack to win and a chance he believes the Blues star deserves after so many close calls earlier in his career.

Ballack will no doubt get tips on the weaknesses in Fabregas's game from Germany keeper Jens Lehmann, a teammate of the young Spaniard at Arsenal.

The Stamford Bridge star is still recovering from losing to Manchester United in the Champions League Final last season and also lost at the same stage with Bayer Leverkusen.

On top of that he missed the 2002 World Cup Final because of suspension and has spent his career chasing that elusive signature title.

Beckenbauer said: "It's a great chance for him to win a big title. He's going for it, he's fighting for it.

"He can be the key player because he's the leader in the German team. He's the man who dictates the game.

"He's a real captain now, a real leader. Everybody in Germany wants him to win because he has always been waiting for this big title. He has lost in the Champions League Final twice and he missed the World Cup Final. Perhaps this will be his stage."

Germany are slight favourites to be crowned champions but Beckenbauer admits their route to the final has been shaky with Lehmann looking uncomfortable behind an unconvincing central defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder.

Whereas Spain began the tournament on fire and played well in every game, Germany have stumbled through.

They looked woeful in a group stage defeat to Croatia and scrambled through their semi-final against Turkey thanks to an injury-time winner from Philipp Lahm.

Beckenbauer said: "The German team's performance has not been like the Spanish team - which has been consistent in every game.

"We had an excellent start against Poland, but against Croatia so-so. Austria so-so, then Portugal excellent and Turkey so-so.

Which means in the final we will play an excellent game!

"I hope it will be a high-scoring final. I want lots of goals, a draw, extratime and then Germany to win on penalties!"

CAPTION(S):

MANN POWER: Lehmann needs to erase the memory of some shaky early performances
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2008
Words:443
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