'We will beat the Italians' - Ballack insists there will be no repeat of 2006 heartbreak

The veteran midfielder captained Die Mannschaft in their devastating World Cup defeat to the Azzurri in Dortmund and expects Joachim Low's men to exact revenge
Michael Ballack is adamant that Germany will not suffer more semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Italy in their Euro 2012 clash in Warsaw on Thursday night.

The veteran midfielder skippered the side beaten by the Azzurri in an epic last-four encounter at the 2006 World Cup but he insists that there is no danger of history repeating itself in the Polish capital.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a footballer," Ballack wrote of the game in Dortmund in his column in Express.

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"The whole country was watching us. And then the unthinkable happened in the 118th minute: we go 1-0 down. Then 2-0. Then the final whistle.

"Suddenly, you're standing there, completely empty, and it's over. It was one of the hardest moments in my career. The dream of winning the title in my own country was over.

"But that was six years ago, and I do not think it will happen again because our team is now much better. They've got far more quality than before. This time we will beat the Italians."

Despite his certainty of success, Ballack believes that it is imperative that influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has been plagued by injuries in recent months, is at his very best.

"Basti is the leader," the former Bayern Munich man argued. "He should not whinge. He needs to have the balls to lead the way."

However, Ballack is also of the opinion that Schweinsteiger's midfielder partner Sami Khedira also has a key role to play in terms of shutting down Italy's creator-in-chief, Andrea Pirlo.

"The Azzurri are incredibly disciplined," he mused. "Tactically, they belong among the best teams in the world, for me.

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"They also have a super mindset with strong-willed players. And, of course, an exceptional player: Andrea Pirlo.

"A 33-year-old. A real leader: smart, and secure on the ball. You have to take him out of the game because he runs every attack. He is an absolutely exceptional player.

"Khedira would be the right man to fight Pirlo. If he succeeds, Pirlo would be out of the heart of the game, and the Italians would be lacking a core."

Germany's semi-final showdown with the 2006 world champions will get under way at 20:45CET.