Future bright for Germany - Ballack
Former Germany captain Michael Ballack says expectations surrounding the national side are justified with the emergence of a new generation of exciting young players.
"It is nice to see that so many young, great players are coming through, that they are developing and fulfilling expectations," Ballack told dpa in an interview.
The 36-year-old former midfielder is now watching from the sidelines after ending his playing career, and likes what he sees when it comes to the Germany team.
Although the semifinal exit at Euro 2012 has put a slight damper on expectations for the 2014 World Cup, Ballack says Germany can be confident for future tournaments.
"Expectations are as big as they always were," he said. "However the demands have grown because you know you have the quality not only to say you want to get to the final or win but that actually other nations say Germany is a top favourite."
Ballack, who ended his playing career at former club Bayer Leverkusen after returning to Germany from Chelsea, earned the last of his 98 international caps in March 2010.
A World Cup runner-up with Germany in 2002, he missed the 2010 World Cup through injury and after further injury setbacks was never selected again by coach Joachim Loew.
Ballack says he is beginning to enjoy a new chapter of his life away from the pressures of football, but admits the transition to retirement from active playing is difficult.
"I had two rather turbulent years, both privately and professionally. Now things have settled down and I am enjoying life," he said.
"It is unusual when you are a spectator after playing for so many years," he added. "It is difficult to let go, that's the way it is for us athletes."
Ballack, a three-time German footballer of the year, who has a wealth of experience, including more than 200 games for Bayern Munich and Chelsea and five league titles in Germany and England, is now considering his professional options.
"I have plans and ideas for want I want to do in the next few years," he said. "It is inevitable that you give some thought to your professional future, but I am doing this in a relaxed way.
"As a professional you have other stress. I am now a bit more relaxed."