Injured Ballack likely to miss Japan friendly

May 29, 2006

GENEVA, May 29 (Reuters) - Michael Ballack could yet play a part in Germany's penultimate World Cup warm-up against Japan on Tuesday after making a pain-free return to training.

Ballack suffered an ankle strain in a practice game in Geneva last Thursday and was forced to miss the World Cup hosts' 7-0 win over Luxembourg on Saturday.

The captain sat out training again on Sunday but was able to rejoin his team mates in an evening session on Monday.

"I had no pain," Ballack told reporters. "If it's no worse overnight I assume I can play."

It remains to be seen whether Klinsmann will gamble on the fitness of his most influential player so close to Germany's World Cup opener against Costa Rica in Munich on June 9.

"In no circumstances will we take a risk," Klinsmann said earlier on Monday.

Germany's final international match before the World Cup is against Colombia in Moenchengladbach on June 2.

Centre-back Robert Huth is also doubtful for the match against Japan because of an ankle problem while Philipp Lahm is still recovering from an elbow injury and will not be fit in time, Klinsmann said.

Despite those troubles, the coach is satisfied with the way the training camps in Sardinia and Switzerland have gone. "You can see we've done a lot of work with the players on tactics and fitness," Klinsmann said. "It's all worked very well."

Germany will leave their Swiss base on Tuesday and set up camp in Duesseldorf between the two international dates. After a couple of days off, they move into their base for the tournament in Berlin on June 5.