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Lahm slaughtered by Bierhoff over Germany captain remarks

Germany's World Cup harmony was fractured yesterday when captain Philipp Lahm said he had no intention of willingly giving up the captain's armband when Michael Ballack returns to fitness.

Lahm’s statement prompted a swift rebuke from team manager Oliver Bierhoff, although he denied that the controversy, which broke just over an hour before the Germans flew to Durban for tonight’s semi-final against Spain, had upset the team.

Still, Bierhoff was not impressed and said: “It's not a great idea to choose the most important week of the World Cup to say that.”

Lahm is officially the World Cup captain while Ballack remains the team captain, having missed the tournament due to an ankle injury. Ballack, who flew out to be with the team ahead of the quarter-final with Argentina returned to Europe on Monday though Bierhoff rejected speculation that he may have been upset with Lahm's comments.

“It's not the case, Ballack visited the team in Sicily before the tournament and it was always agreed that he would visit for the quarter-final,” said Bierhoff.

Lahm had said: “It's obvious that I'd like to keep the captain's armband. The job gives me a great deal of enjoyment. Why should I then give it up by choice? If you do the job out there on the pitch and you have it under control, as in my case, you want more. You want more responsibility.”

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