Football around the world: No charity from Americans

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The Independent Online

THREE PLAYERS who earn their living in had good reason to celebrate in this northern Florida city on Saturday evening. Unfortunately for Erich Ribbeck, none of them were in his team.

Ribbeck, who succeeded Berti Vogts as 's coach earlier this season, had the look of a haunted man after his experimental team had been thrashed 3-0 by a young American side in the first of two friendlies on this trip. The Germans play Colombia in Miami today.

Glenn Hoddle might have enjoyed watching a German squirm in front of a media interrogation. Ribbeck was asked to explain how his team had found themselves 3-0 down in less than half an hour to a country they had beaten easily at last year's World Cup finals.

"Nervousness spread through the team after we went behind," Ribbeck admitted. "Rather than helping each other, the nervousness became contagious. There was no leadership out there."

That appeared to be a direct criticism of the German captain, Lothar Matthaus, and also of the anonymous Andreas Moller. Perhaps it was, but Ribbek added: "It is not only Matthaus and Moller who are under pressure."

There were mitigating circumstances for Ribbeck - his players were rusty because of the Bundesliga winter break and top men like Oliver Bierhoff have not been released by their clubs - but it was still a disastrous result for him.

There was talk yesterday back home that 's bid to host the 2006 World Cup might have been placed at risk by a Fifa edict. The world governing body has ordered that World Cup grounds have a minimum capacity of 40,000. had been working on the basis of 30,000, the capacity required in last year's finals.

"Our bid is not in any way endangered by the change. It is a question of which stadiums to choose out of the many that we have." Horst Schmidt, secretary general of the German Football Association, said, however.

For the United States coach, Bruce Arena, Saturday's victory was his first since succeeding Steve Sampson, after 0-0 draws against Bolivia and Australia. He has recalled the goalkeeper Tony Meola, a veteran of the 1990 and '94 World Cups, but he has also brought in some impressive young players. As well as Tony Sanneh, the midfielders Eddie Lewis and Chris Armas and the defenders Robin Fraser and CJ Brown show much promise.

An interested spectator here was Lawrie McMenemy, the Northern Ireland manager, whose side entertain the European champions in a Euro 2000 qualifier next month.

"The Germans will be concerned by this result," he said, "because the expectations back home are so high." He feels that Ribbeck will make changes before the Belfast game.

After the senior game, the US Under-23 team lost 1-0 to the German Under- 21s. The coach of the US youngsters is Clive Charles, the former West Ham defender, while their goalkeeping coach is Peter Mellor, who played for Fulham against West Ham in the 1975 FA Cup final.

In the senior game, Cobi Jones, the former Coventry City forward, won his 113th cap for the States. At 28, he has enough years left to surpass the world record of 143 caps held by the Swedish goalkeeper, Thomas Ravelli.

"It would be a great honour, if it happens," Jones said, "but I'm not going to put too much weight behind it, because we played so many games between '92 and '94."

Remembering his spell with Coventry, Jones said: "I wish I had had the opportunity to play up front and not out wide. If I have the chance to play in England again, I hope I will be able to tell the coach where I usually play!"


Juventus have invited Carlo Ancelotti to take over as coach immediately, following the departure of Marcello Lippi in the wake of the 4-2 home defeat by Parma on Sunday. Ancelotti, who had been due to take over at the end of this season, said he would accept. The 39-year-old former Roma and Milan midfielder inherits a Juventus side ninth in Serie A and already out of the Italian Cup.