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World Cup: German 2-0 victory over U.S. far from routine.


By Paul Oberjuerge
Gannett News Service

PARIS (Monday, June 15, 1998) -- The final score would seem to indicate business as usual. Germany 2, United States 0, and the sun rises in the East.

But this was not the Teutonic walkover many expected in the World Cup opener for both teams Monday night at Parc des Princes. The U.S. national soccer team played well enough against one of the globe's premier teams to believe it still can advance to the second round of France '98.

"We know we're not going to face anybody that good in our next two games," midfielder Claudio Reyna said.

"They don't make many mistakes," sweeper Thomas Dooley said of the Germans. "That's why they're the best team in the world."

From the U.S. perspective, the Yanks played nearly even with the three-time world champions after surrendering a jolting goal to veteran midfielder Andy Moeller only eight minutes into the game.

The Americans dominated play much of the second half, gaining the support of most of the crowd of 49,000 and nearly getting even on a 53rd-minute header by Frankie Hejduk that German goalkeeper Andreas Koepke dove to deflect.

"That ball goes in, and everything is different," U.S. defender Eddie Pope said.

"I thought we played attractive, attacking soccer in the second half," coach Steve Sampson said. "I think we showed how far we've come since '94. After giving up that early goal, some teams would have folded up and died."

Juergen Klinsmann clinched it for Germany with a counterattack goal in the 64th minute.

German coach Berti Vogts said he was not surprised the Americans didn't collapse. "If you look at their results, it's clear they have learned and made definite strides," he said. "There are no poor cousins anymore."

The early German goal, the end result of a Olaf Thon corner kick that went from Klinsmann's head to Moeller's, seemed to shock the Americans. "We were hoping to keep it scoreless as long as possible and then they would start to feel some pressure," Pope said. "That was the kind of bad goal we didn't want to give them. I think we were in shock for a while. We didn't really get over it 'til halftime."

U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who could not be faulted on either goal, suggested his teammates initially were overawed by the Germans. "I think we respected them a bit too much, which is natural, because they're the European champions and we're playing them in Europe," he said. I think once we realized we could be physical with them, that no one was being sent off for playing hard, we did much better."

"Obviously, the early goal impacted the first half," Sampson said. "It put us back on our heels a little, and we never really got into the attack until the second half."

The halftime substitution of Hejduk for Mike Burns at wide right midfield seemed to energize the Americans, who strung together so many passes at one point that the crowd began shouting "Ole!" Cobi Jones was tirelessly effective throughout. Tab Ramos, a 69th-minute substitute, got off a couple cracks at goal. And Reyna, rendered invisible the first 45 minutes by the defense of Jens Jeremies, finally got into the game.

"Jeremies did a tremendous job of marking Claudio," Sampson said. "That was their game plan. Jeremies does that for his club team, and he did it for the national team. I think it was an expression of their respect for Claudio that they gave him so much attention."

Reyna rarely touched the ball in the first half. "They shut down space so quickly, they don't give you any room to play," he said.

The Americans probably need to win both of their remaining first-round games, against Iran on Saturday and against Yugoslavia on June 25 to advance.

The first 10 minutes were Sampson's worst nightmare. The Americans reacted badly to pressure, and the Germans scored. On Germany's first corner kick, Thon swung the ball across the box, where Klinsmann rose above Americans David Regis and Ernie Stewart and flicked the ball toward the front of the net.

Waiting, unmarked (Reyna and Dooley were nearby, on either side) and just inside the goalie box, was Moeller, who went up for the floating ball and headed it toward the left (near) post. Burns, assigned to guard the post, allowed a crack of space to open between himself and the post, and Moeller's shot went through it (rib-high) and into the net.

The goal did nothing to settle the Americans, who spent most of the first 15 minutes rushing bad passes and kicking long balls to no one -- precisely what Sampson hoped his team would not do.

Jones showed some life up the left side, getting into the box more than once and drawing a yellow card from Jeremies in the 29th minute. Deering took the only shot on goal, a 30-yarder that Koepke handled with ease.

Statistically, the game was fairly even. Germany outshot the Americans only 11-10, and the United States actually had more corners (6-5). "They were better than us tonight," Burns said of the Germans. "We're not satisfied with the way we played, but we also realize we played one of the best teams in the world."

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

Group F

Germany 2, United States 0
in Paris

Germany: Andreas Koepke, Christian Woerns, Juergen Kohler, Olaf Thon, Stefan Reuter (Christian Ziege 69), Joerg Heinrich, Andy Moeller (Markus Babbel 90), Thomas Haessler (Dietmar Hamann 50), Jens Jeremies, Juergen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff.
United States: Kasey Keller, Eddie Pope, David Regis, Mike Burns (Frankie Hejduk 46), Thomas Dooley, Ernie Stewart, Cobi Jones, Chad Deering (Tab Ramos 70), Brian Maisonneuve, Claudio Reyna, Eric Wynalda (Roy Wegerle 64).
Goals: Germany - Andy Moeller 9, Juergen Klinsmann 66.
Shots at goal: Germany 11, United States 10.
Shots on goal: Germany 4, United States 3.
Corner kicks: Germany 5, United States 6.
Fouls: Germany 18, United States 16.
Offsides:Germany 1, United States 3.
Yellow cautionary cards: Germany - Jens Jeremies 29, Dietmar Hamann 77, Joerg Heinrich 84. United States - Frankie Hejduk 51, Eddie Pope 86.
Referee: Said Belqola (Morocco).
Attendance: 43,815.