There are not many things you can rely on in football, but Germany are usually one of them. The favourites for Euro 96 became the first team to reach the quarter-finals with this victory that also ensured that Russia's interest will not extend beyond their Group C matches.
Jurgen Klinsmann, twice, and Matthias Sammer got the goals to give the scoreline a more comprehensive look than the performance merited. But that sums up Berti Vogts' team: give them a chance and they will usually take it. The Russians, who had Yuri Kovtun sent off, could probably state a case for being unlucky, yet they were comprehensively beaten by the end.
The goal that sealed the match for the Germans was worthy of winning any game. Little had been seen of Klinsmann bar a turn and shot over the bar in the first half, yet he exploded into the proceedings 14 minutes from the end.
Receiving the ball with his back to goal 35 yards out, the German captain turned and pushed the ball beyond Yuri Nikiforov as if the Russian defender was an object parked on the pitch. Even then he had to beat Dimitri Kharin but he put the Russian goalkeeper out of the calculation with a shot curled from the outside of his right foot into the top corner. At the speed he was travelling, his precision was breath-taking.
The goal had a crushing effect on the Russians who had wasted two opportunities in the first half that, had they been taken, an upset on the par with the Czech Republic's against Italy would have been theirs for the asking.
The first arrived after seven minutes when Markus Babbel's defensive header went only as far as Ilya Tsymbalar on the right edge of the area. The Spartak Moscow player's left-foot volley hit the far post and rebounded to the centre of the area where Igor Kolyvanov had the whole goal to aim at with his header. Instead of putting it in one of the corners, however, he went for power and thumped it straight at Andreas Kopke.
It required a good save nevertheless from the German goalkeeper, but not as excellent as his intervention after 38 minutes. With Alexander Mostovoi clear through from Dimitri Khokhlov's pass, Kopke forced the Strasbourg striker wide then flicked the ball off his toes with his right hand.
Germany do not often give teams second chances and after 55 minutes they underlined the cost of those misses. The rest of the team works hard to give Andreas Moller as much possession as possible and he showed why with a delightful chipped pass to Sammer who had run from deep to create the space in the Russian area. The Borussia Dortmund sweeper hit one drive that was saved and then flicked the ball into the net from the rebound.
If the Russians felt things were going against them it was confirmed after 70 minutes when Kovtun, their best defender, was dismissed for a two-footed lunge on Dieter Eilts. Without their linchpin the rearguard was always likely to fall apart against the pacy counter-attacks of the Germans and Klinsmann took full advantage.
After 76 minutes he made the score 2-0 and with the game in injury time, he got the Germans' third. Stefan Kuntz won a tackle against Nikiforov on the edge of the area and then slipped a pass to his strike partner. The ball was slightly behind Klinsmann but he dragged the ball with him and then tucked it into the corner past Kharin.
The Russian coach, Oleg Romantsev, was very critical of his team, who now face their final group match against the Czech Republic at Anfield on Wednesday. "Some of our players looked bad. Others looked very bad," he said.
"We lacked real organisation in the first half," Vogts, the German coach said. "I am very happy with the points. We have the World Cup runners- up now."
The result means the Germans can afford to lose their last group game against Italy on Wednesday although the temptation to finish off one of their principal rivals at the earliest stage will probably prove irresistible. On this evidence the Italians have every reason to worry.
n Germany lost their second Euro 96 squad member yesterday when the midfielder, Mario Basler, was ruled out for the rest of the tournament following an ankle injury sustained in training on Friday. Basler had had an operation 10 days ago on the same ankle to remove a floating bone.
Goals: Sammer (55) 0-1; Klinsmann (76) 0-2, Klinsmann (89) 0-3.
GERMANY (5-3-2): Kopke (Eintracht Frankfurt); Reuter (Borussia Dortmund), Babbel (Bayern Munich), Sammer (Borussia Dortmund), Helmer, Ziege (both Bayern Munich); Hassler (Karlsruhe), Eilts (Werder Bremen), Moller (Borussia Dortmund); Bierhoff (Udinese), Klinsmann (Bayern Munich). Substitutes: Freund (Borussia Dortmund) for Hassler, 66; Kuntz (Besiktas) for Bierhoff, 84; Strunz (Bayern Munich) for Moller, 86.
RUSSIA (3-5-2): Kharin (Chelsea); Onopko (Real Oviedo), Nikiforov (Spartak Moscow), Kovtun (Dynamo Moscow); Kanchelskis (Everton), Tetradze (Alania Vladikavkadze), Khokhlov, Radimov (both CSKA Moscow), Tsymbalar (Spartak Moscow); Mostovoi (Strasbourg), Kolyvanov (Foggia). Substitutes: Karpin (Real Sociedad) for Radimov 45, Simutenkov (Reggiana) for Khokhlov, 65.
Referee: K Nielsen (Denmark).
Bookings: Germany Babbel, Bierhoff. Russia Kanchelskis, Onopko. Sending- off: Russia: Kovtun
Man of the match: Moller. Attendance: 50,760.Reuse content