BERLIN (AFP) - Germany captain Michael Ballack on Thursday urged the Euro 2008 finalists to raise their game for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein to banish the memories of their recent defeats.
The 32-year-old Chelsea star is demanding a raised effort in Leipzig from his side who have lost their last two home games: a 2-1 defeat to England last November and a 1-0 defeat to Norway in February.
Germany have not suffered back-to-back home defeats since 1956 and Ballack says only a convincing win over Liechenstein, ranked 151st in the world, will suffice.
"We simply have to play better and put in a better performance," Ballack told sports magazine Kicker.
"And it will happen."
Germany are top of their qualifying group and are unbeaten with three wins and a draw to give them a four-point lead over their main group rivals Russia.
But the Germans travel to Moscow in October for the tie which could decide the group and Ballack says it is crucial Germany win both their next two games against Liechtenstein and then Wales in Cardiff on April 1.
"Even if we don't win these games by much, the result is very important," said Ballack.
"We must win these games and stay on course to be group leaders in the autumn when we travel to Moscow.
"We have laid the foundations for some important games which, figuratively speaking, will decide the life or death of who reaches the World Cup.
"As captain, that is something I am trying to point out."
And Ballack says he has no worries about whether Germany will reach next year's World Cup which takes place in South Africa from June 11 to July 11.
"We will qualify for the World Cup," insisted Ballack.
"We will get through the qualifying group, even if things get a bit tight.
"After that, we will meet the big teams and we will have to play at a higher level against the type of teams like Spain, who we lost to at the Euro.
"Everybody must have an eye on the bigger picture, that is important."
Germany's defeat to Norway in February shocked the national media and the squad can ill-afford another upset against minnows Liechtenstein.
"We can play good football, but in addition we have to have discipline and order," said Ballack who will win his 91st cap on Saturday.
"It is part of our mentality and if we don't have it then we struggle, even against the likes of Norway."
Having sparked a media spat with coach Joachim Loew last autumn by accusing him of not showing senior players enough respect and loyalty, Ballack says he has not changed his leadership style, but is more flexible.
"My leadership style is the same as it always was and I haven't changed it," he said.
"I have developed it, but not changed it.
"I am always open to new ideas, but you can't always be right."
And Ballack says certain differences of opinion are healthy in a team environment.
"There must be some tensions in a team, which you can't always wipe away or smooth over.
"Things aren't always full of sunshine, there has to be friction at times as well."
|Mexico v Cuba: Orozco promoted as Herrera targets minnows|
|Haiti deserved to draw - Collat|
|Trinidad and Tobago v Guatemala: Goals at a premium in Chicago|
|United States 2 Honduras 1: Dempsey´s brace secures victory|
|Dos Santos confirms Galaxy interest|
|Panama 1 Haiti 1: Former finalists stunned late|
|MLS All-Star XI|
|Milan receive new stadium go-ahead|
|Lampard welcomes ´perfect´ NYCFC challenge|
|Shamrock Rovers 3 Progres Niederkorn 0: Waters at the double|
|Gerrard keen to emulate ´hero´ Beckham at Galaxy|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Red Imps make history, TNS breeze through|
|Ameobi extends Newcastle deal and heads for Cardiff|
|U.S. women celebrate World Cup victory with LA rally|
|Atletico agree Vietto deal|
|Silva appointed Olympiacos head coach|
|Presidential candidates unsure of Turan´s Barca switch|
|Toure keen to bounce back from ´disappointing´ campaign|
|El Salvador v Canada: Floro targets Gold Cup learning curve|
|Juve complete Zaza swoop|
|Costa Rica v Jamaica: Borges confident Wanchope´s men are ready|
|Marseille snare Sarr|
|Italy coach Conte to stand trial in match-fixing case|
|Castan keen to repay Roma´s faith|
|Rami thrilled to reunite with ´best coach´ Emery at Sevilla|
|Lusitans v West Ham: Tomkins seeks to silence minnows|
|Kagawa shines as Dortmund hit six in Japan|
|Alonso tips Gerrard for Galaxy glory|
|Firmino seeks self-improvement with Liverpool|
|Buffon bids farewell to Pirlo|
|Sterling named Europe´s ´most valuable´ young player|
|Casillas´ agent reveals Porto offer|
|Southampton bring in Martina|
|Dundee United accept Celtic´s Ciftci bid|
|McArthur pens new Palace deal|
|Bartomeu rules out Barca move for Pogba this year|
|Spurs have to be better now - Bentaleb|
|Milner expects central role|
|Micronesia thrashed again, this time 46-0|
|Marchisio: I cannot be Pirlo´s heir|
|Inter aiming for Champions League return - Icardi|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Brondby and Slovan to protect handsome leads|
|Bentaleb pens new long-term deal at Tottenham|
|Barca agree Turan deal|
|FIFA bans Mayne-Nicholls|
|United States v Honduras: Klinsmann demands improvement ahead of Gold Cup opener|
|CONCACAF institutes extensive reforms in wake of FIFA corruption scandal|
|Mauri completes Milan move|
|City sign Turkey striker|
|Women´s World Cup final draws huge US TV ratings|
|My first Chelsea team better than current crop - Drogba|
|Bertrand set for lay-off after knee surgery|
|New five-year Juve deal for Marchisio|
|Allegri extends Juve contract|
|Koeman reiterates Alderweireld interest|
|Valencia bag Bakkali|
|New York City FC complete Pirlo capture|
|Panama v Haiti: Collat ready to challenge the best of CONCACAF|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Harrison eyes TNS progression|
|FIFA sanctions Yemen for fielding ineligible player|
|Toulouse rubbish Ben Yedder exit reports|
|Mourinho ´knows what he´s doing´ with Falcao signing|
|Watford shell out club-record fee for Capoue|
|Braafheid signs Lazio extension|
|Nani finalises Fenerbahce move|
|Liverpool confirm O´Driscoll appointment|
|Liverpool have to start better - Lucas|
|USA simply too good - Sasaki|
|Portland Timbers 1 San Jose Earthquakes 0: Jewsbury wins it in stoppage time|
|No move yet for Van Persie|
|Lloyd wins Golden Ball, Silver Boot awards|
|Mascherano: I never grabbed Banega|
|Dunga requested Brazil not appeal Neymar´s suspension|
|United States 5 Japan 2: Lloyd stars with hat-trick|
|Fiorentina deny Inter criticism|
|Nani relishing Fenerbahce opportunity|