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Ballack aiming for World Cup glory in last hurrah with Germany

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  • Germany midfielder Michael Ballack talks to CNN Sport about the 2010 World Cup
  • The Chelsea star will represent his country in the finals in South Africa
  • Ballack will reach the 100-cap mark for his country during the month-long tournament

(CNN) -- Germany captain Michael Ballack is used to the huge pressure soccer can bring after a long career competing for major honors on the domestic and international stage.

The midfielder has won four league titles in Germany, three while at Bayern Munich, and can boast two English Premier League successes and two FA Cup's with current club Chelsea.

Yet there is one thing missing from Ballack's impressive CV: success with his national team.

The 33-year-old was in the German team beaten to the trophy by Brazil at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, then on home soil in 2006 his side were knocked out in the semifinals by eventual winners Italy.

Gallery: Michael Ballack at the World Cup

Ballack also skippered Germany to second place at the European Championships in 2008, losing 1-0 to Spain in the final.

But, as he told CNN Sport's Alex Thomas, he is hoping to lead his side to glory in South Africa in what will be his last World Cup.

CNN: Germany has such a successful record at the World Cup, do you feel that extra weight and pressure?

Ballack: To be honest it's not a pressure, it's an honor to be captain of Germany and when I became it in 2004 I was really proud that I could make the step to be captain after Oliver Kahn. There were so many good captains during the years, we have such a great history in the country and to be part of this makes me proud. Also it's pressure because you have to have success, you have to win games, you have to win titles and that's what it's all about in our country because it has a great history. Hopefully we can carry on.

CNN: Germany seem to make it to the final every time, how do you do it?

Obviously it's the last one I will play so it gives me big motivation to play a good tournament this year
--Michael Ballack, Germany captain

Ballack: A lot of people in England ask me how can you do this with your country because sometimes we go into a tournament and we are not the favorites but we can always do well, and that's a quality we have. I don't know where it comes from, maybe the history, but we can be really concentrated during the tournament, and especially in the big events most of the time we've done really well.

CNN: You're coming up to your third World Cup, how has the experience in 2002 and 2006 affected how you will approach the next one?

Ballack: Experience is always important. I played in 2002 and 2006, once I finished second, once I finished third, so one place improvement maybe. When we get into a tournament it's always step by step, we have to think from round to round. Obviously it's the last one I will play so it gives me big, big motivation to play a good tournament this year. I think it's a bit similar to the past that when we go in the tournament we have a good team. We played a good qualification, but we are not one of the top favorites so maybe it plays a little into our hands. We have quite a young team, and if there is not too much pressure on the team maybe it will help the team a little bit.

CNN: You've played at the World Cup on home soil in Germany and will play in the first World Cup to ever be held in Africa -- you've been lucky with how your career has been timed.

Ballack: Yeah, absolutely. To play a World Cup in your own country as a captain is not normal. When we saw the draw in 2001 or 2002 that we had the World Cup in 2006 we were all really excited because it was a big chance to play a World Cup in your own country. If I look back, it was a great tournament for us, it was a great few weeks. Everybody was so excited in the country, big parties all over the cities and now it's a different thing. It's the first World Cup in Africa, it's a little bit new for everybody. Germany was so well-organized, everybody expects the same now, but it's a totally different thing now. The fans have a different mentality, it will be a lot different but in a good way hopefully. That's why I think everybody is looking forward to it.

CNN: What do you make of your group opponents?

Ballack: We have a tough group. Australia, Serbia and Ghana, they're all really physical teams. So it will be really tough for us.

CNN: You're on 98 caps, assuming Germany do well in the World Cup you'll be well over the 100 mark and really among some of the top players that have ever played for Germany. Is it important to you, how you're remembered in the history of your country's players?

Ballack: It's always nice if you can be part of the history and well-recognized. I mean that's what everybody wants, but the most important thing for me is that I'm happy with myself. When I finish my career I can say I did well, I gave my best, and if a few more caps come it makes me happy. There's not really a target, 100 is a big number and hopefully I can reach them soon. What comes after I will see. I've really enjoyed the times I've played for Germany, every game is special for me, so hopefully I can play a few more.

CNN: I asked everyone in the office, I said Michael Ballack has played 98 times, how many goals do you think he has scored for Germany, and they all said 10, 15, 18 and I said 42. They couldn't believe it. Why is your strike rate so good for your country?

Ballack: I don't know 100 percent, but I was always a midfield player with a lot of determination in the box. I want to score goals. I always scored a lot of goals when I was young, I've scored in every position in my career, from a defender to a striker when I was young. I think I learned it when I was young, I had it in the blood a little bit to score goals. That's what I always try to do for my country and I'm really proud that I could score so many goals.

CNN: Is the World Cup still the biggest tournament for players?

Ballack: I think so. You play for your club every year, week in week out, so it makes it exciting and special, but the World Cup is something bigger. You play it every four years, the best teams in the world playing each other. Even the atmosphere during such a big tournament, you go in the bus driving to a game and you see all your fans supporting you. They feel so excited even you feel something special.

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