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Croatia stuns Germany 3-0, using one-man advantage.

By Paul Oberjuerge
Gannett News Service

LYON, France (Saturday, July 4, 1998) -- In perhaps the greatest World Cup upset in nearly 50 years, first-timer Croatia shocked three-time world champion Germany 3-0 tonight to advance to the semifinals of France ’98.

Croatia didn’t exist as a nation as recently as the 1990 World Cup, and didn’t former a soccer federation in time to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. But a lack of history has proved no hindrance to perhaps the darkest of horses in World Cup history.

Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaovic and Davor Suker scored for Croatia, which got all three of its goals against a German team playing with 10 men.

Croatia faces France in the semifinals Wednesday in the Stade de France. The Netherland’s and Brazil okay in the other semifinal Tuesday. Of those four teams, only Brazil has ever won a World Cup.

One need go back to 1950 to find results that compare in shock value to Croatia’s victory the United States’ scarcely believable 1-0 win over England in the first round, and Uruguay’s 2-1 upset of host Brazil before 200,000 fans in the final.

"I think we can say we’re the best team in the world tonight," Croatia goalkeeper Drazen Ladic said as thousands of flag-waving fans celebrated in the northeast corner of Stade Gerland.

"It has to be considered an historic result," Croatia coach Miroslav Blazevic said. "Never has Croatia come so far or done so much."

It was the heaviest defeat inflicted on a German team in the World Cup since an 8-3 rout at the hands of Hungary in 1954, and the first time the Germans failed to score since the 1986 quarterfinals when they played Mexico to a scoreless tie, but won in penalty kicks.

"I thought it would be a one-goal game," German coach Berti Vogts said. "It’s a shame to lose this way."

The game turned in the 40th minute, when German defender Christian Woerns, one of the team’s best performers in this World Cup, was sent off by Norwegian referee Rune Pederson for a late tackle on Suker. It appeared to be a close call, but a good one.

Vogts didn’t agree. "Until the sending off, Germany was playing better," he said. "We had the upper hand. Until that incident, which was rather provocative, the German team was the better team. But I don’t want to say anything more about that."

Indeed, Germany dominated the first 40 minutes in much the same fashion it did versus the United States in the opener, controlling the ball, winning every tackle, firing off several shots at Ladic.

The Germans nearly scored on a header by Dietmar Hamann and a header by Oliver Bierhoff that Ladic stopped with his body in the goal, but his hands outside it and it looked like only a matter of time before Germany broke through against a team it defeated 2-1 in the 1996 European Championship semifinals.

Then came Woern’s red card, in which he took down Suker long after he had passed the ball, and everything changed. Croatia scored eight minutes later, while the Germans were still in shock.

Jarni collected a rolling cross from Mario Stanic outside and to the left of the box, about 25 yards out, and as German midfielder Jorg Heinrich backed off, banged a lo, hard shot that beat diving German keeper Andreas Kopke to his left.

"After their player was sent off, it became easier for us," Blazevic said. "But I don’t think that takes away from our result. We continued to play as if it were nil-nil."

The desperate Germans, known for seemingly-hopeless comebacks, played with a passion verging on fury for the first 35 minutes of the second half.

They came close to scoring several times. The closest calls came in the 53d minute, when Bierhoff blasted a volley off a corner that staggered Ladic, pushing him into the goal as he kept the ball just in front of the line; and in the 79th minute, when Hamann’s free kick deflected off a Croatia player in the wall and hit the left post.

Croatia clinched it when Vlaovic scored in the 80th minute and Suker scored in the 85th.

It was Germany’s second consecutive quarterfinal exit from the World Cup after winning it in 1990. "Before the sending off, we put in our best performance in this World Cup," Vogts said. "There’s no point in going over and over the red card. The fact is that Croatia goes on to Paris and we go home."

Croatia defender Slaven Bilic put in another way: "We’re in the last four and any of the four can win it."

Paul Oberjuerge writes for the San Bernardino County (Calif,) Sun.

Croatia 3, Germany 0

Germany -- Andreas Koepke; Lothar Matthaeus, Juergen Kohler, Christian Woerns; Joerg Heinrich, Thomas Haessler (Ulf Kirsten 69), Jens Jeremies, Dietmar Hamann (Olaf Marschall 79), Michael Tarnat; Juergen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff.
Croatia -- Drazen Ladic; Igor Stimac, Slaven Bilic, Dario Simic, Robert Jarni; Zvonimir Soldo, Aljosa Asanovic, Zvonimir Boban, Mario Stanic; Davor Suker, Goran Vlaovic (Zoran Mamic 83).
Goals: Croatia, - Jarni (48), Goran (80) Suker (86).
Shots at goal: Germany 14. Croatia 16.
Shots on goal: Germany 2. Croatia 6.
Offsides: Germany 2, Croatia 5.
Fouls: Germany 23, Croatia 31.
Corner kicks: Germany 19, Croatia 5.
Yellow cautionary cards: Germany, Heinrich 18, Tarnat, 37; Croatia - Simic, 13; Suker, 57.
Red expulsion cards: Germany - Woerns, 40.
Referee: Rune Pedersen (Norway).
Attendance: 39,100.