Germany's Michael Ballack will consider his international future after next summer's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The Chelsea attacking midfielder, 33 in three weeks' time, has been the key player for his country for several years.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's friendly with South Africa in Leverkusen, he said: "I will decide after the World Cup in 2010 if I carry on or stop.

"This will be a new situation for me that I need to think carefully about. In any case, I'll play as long as it gives me pleasure and I have ambition."

I will decide after the World Cup in 2010 if I carry on or stop. I'll play as long as it gives me pleasure and I have ambition.

Germany's Michael Ballack on his international future

Ballack's admission is unlikely to come as a surprise to Germany coach Joachim Low, whose side continue to hone their preparation for their remaining qualifiers with a game against Bafana Bafana at the weekend.

The match comes four days ahead of a Group 4 qualifier against Azerbaijan in Hannover. The crucial games in the pool are in October, when Germany travel to second-placed Russia before hosting third-placed Finland.

Germany have been unimpressive in recent outings, and Low is expecting his side to rise to the challenge over the next few games. "I expect a much improved performance in Leverkusen and Hannover. We know exactly what caused the dip in the curve recently," he said.

Bayern Munich full-back Philipp Lahm is another who is hoping Germany can raise their level of performance when it really matters. "We have to get a grip on a few tactical things, both in attack and defence," he told Bild newspaper. "Otherwise we are going to have real problems in the World Cup qualifiers."