Germany Takes a Hit, Pun Intended, with the Loss of Ballack

Previous German Captain

Germany’s Michael Ballack took a hit to his ankle Mid-May by Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng

It only happens every four years. Fans go crazy worldwide for the excitement it brings. There are celebrations, tears, chants, and cheers. If you haven’t figured out what I am talking about, you probably should listen up. The 2010 World Cup is amongst us. The best of the best have joined their home teams and are ready to compete at a level of play that is close to indescribable. Soccer players (and their fans) are pretty unique. Yes we have our crazed football and basketball fans, but this competition proves to be one of a kind. And although it took a slow start in the U.S., soccer is finally catching its much deserved hype and respect. Finally! We seem to be the last country to jump on the bandwagon, but we’re finally on it.

With that being said, hope you aren’t a Germany fan (or you have been saying a lot of prayers to the soccer God lately). In their Saturday FA Cup final, Germany took a loss that is sure to test their players’ skills in the upcoming summer games. Germany’s three-time player of the year, Michael Ballack, took a hit to his ankle by Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng that has cut his season short and possibly robs him of his final chance at a win in the World Cup. The 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel yet. He will have the summer to think about whether he would like to return to the national team for the 2012 European Championship. Right now his main concentration is on getting healthy for the next club season.

The German captain suffered ligament damage in his right ankle at Wembley Stadium in the first half of the game and is now being spotted with a cast to start the healing process before he‘s able to train, which will not be for at least eight weeks. Good news is (yes, there is good news) he is expected to have a full recovery. Yet that still doesn’t make German fans very happy. Many are calling this an intentional foul, noting that the two “scuffled” shortly before the unfortunate tackle. Boateng has since heard heavy criticism from German officials, but is releasing statements that it was simply an accident. He apologized twice on the field during Portsmouth’s 0-1 loss and now, publicly, after.

Ballack joined his teammates at their training camp in Sicily and is anxious to provide support and leadership in their future games. He might only being able to give his support, but many fans are hoping that is enough to win the 2010 World Cup. With less than a month before the tournament, Germany coach Joachim Loew needs to choose a new captain and a player to fill Ballack’s midfield defense role. Germany opens this summer’s World Cup play against Australia.

Early Exit Likely for Injury-Hobbled Lakers in 2010 NBA Playoffs?

The long-standing injury to Kobe Bryant's right index finger is one which could easily limit the Lakers' chances of a repeat in 2010.

Despite earning the top seed and home court advantage throughout the NBA Western Conference Playoffs for the third consecutive year, the injury-plagued Los Angeles Lakers—who finished the last ten games of the regular season at a dismal 4-6 win/loss record—have more than enough reason to be concerned going into the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

Although he has stated that he will return from injury in the Lakers’ playoff opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers may be forced to begin the 2010 NBA Playoffs without the availability of center Andrew Bynum due to a strained Achilles tendon suffered on March 19 against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center.  With the Lakers regular season record standing at 38-12 with a healthy combo of Bynum and forward/center Pau Gasol versus a 19-13 record with one or both injured (Mike Trudell, BasketBlog), it is no secret that the Lakers’ success depends very heavily on the health of their front court.

Another injury which may prove to be even more troubling for the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Playoffs is that to the right index finger of Kobe Bryant, which has remained a source of concern for the Lakers throughout much of the regular season.  Prior to suffering an avulsion fracture in his right index finger during the regular season, Bryant’s shot percentage was four percentage points higher; his scoring average three points per game higher than the time of the injury—after which Bryant began playing with a splint on his finger.  This will be critical for the Lakers—for whom it can easily be argued that the difference maker in finishing two games ahead of Dallas to earn the top seed in the Western Conference was a number of decisive clutch shots from Bryant.