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Kotoko's rise continues as Hearts' unbeaten run ends

Football
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By ESPN Staff

Loew pays tribute to 'nearly man' Ballack

Michael Ballack ended on the losing side in a final again but Germany coach Joachim Loew insisted his skipper deserves a winners' medal for his efforts during Euro 2008. Ballack, 31, recovered from a calf injury to play against Spain at Vienna's Ernst Happel Stadium but it was Fernando Torres who settled the clash in Austria's capital with his strike in the 33rd minute. It adds to Ballack's tag of being a 'nearly man', after being suspended for the World Cup final in 2002 just after Bayer Leverkusen missed a trio of chances for silverware. This season Manchester United pipped him to the Premier League and Champions League - and he finds himself the bridesmaid once more. 'I was glad when he and the physios indicated on the afternoon of the game that he could play,' Loew said. 'It was important to have him on the pitch and good to have him there. 'He is very important for our team always and he did a lot of special things in this tournament. 'He was our leader and he represented the team and Germany superbly.' When asked if he deserved a medal, Loew replied: 'Yes, he does.' Low spoke to goalkeeper Jens Lehmann after the defeat but there were no discussions of retirement. 'I didn't speak to him about that,' Loew said. 'I said 'congratulations, you played very well, the best in this tournament',' he said. 'He is also a leader in our team and very professional. I told him 'thank you' for what he did.' Loew admitted Spain were worthy champions, adding: 'I think we have to recognise the high quality of the Spanish players, they were playing very well during the whole tournament and today they were technically excellent and had more chances than we had. So I think they deserved the victory. 'We are disappointed after the match but I think we can be satisfied with the tournament on the whole. The team was performing very well over the 45 days we've spent together.'

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