Football: Bierhoff punishes error prone Colombians

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The Independent Online
Rupert Metcalf reports from Frankfurt

Germany 3 Colombia 1

THE European champions re-affirmed their status as serious contenders for the world crown with a convincing victory over Colombia, which pleased a packed crowd at the Waldstadion on Saturday evening.

Two well-taken goals by Oliver Bierhoff inside the first 16 minutes put the Germans in early command. Andreas Moller added a third in the first minute of the second half. Carlos Valderrama's late penalty produced a scoreline which, if anything, flattered the Colombians.

For the watching England scouts John Gorman and Glenn Roeder, plus Romania's coach Anghel Iordanescu, there was much to learn prior to the forthcoming Group G encounters with the South Americans at France 98. The Colombian defence looked disorganised and error prone, especially early in the game.

With the exception of the tall Harold Lozano, Colombia's midfield looks well short of world class. The flame-haired Valderrama is, perhaps like England's Paul Gascoigne, in the starting line-up more for his reputation than his current contribution.

Up front, though, is where the Colombians are at their strongest - and everything revolves around the mercurial talents of the former hero of the Toon Army, Faustino Asprilla. With help from Fredy Rincon on the left wing but not from the lumbering centre-forward Adolfo Valencia , Asprilla provided his side's only real threat. His close control and pace worried even defenders as good as the formidable Jurgen Kohler, winning his 100th cap.

It took Germany just 59 seconds to claim the lead. In their first attack several swift passes took the ball from left to right across the midfield. Thomas Hassler played it in low from the flank, Jorge Bermudez made a complete hash of his clearance and Bierhoff ruthlessly shot home with his right foot low to the left of Farid Mondragon.

The Udinese man's striking partner, Olaf Marschall, missed a couple of decent chances before Bierhoff struck again. From Stefan Reuter's pass, Hassler's fierce 25-yard shot came back off a post and Bierhoff swept in the rebound from 12 yards out.

Colombia offered only occasional alarms. A lithe run down the left from Asprilla set up Mauricio Serna for a well-struck shot which was pushed over the bar by Andreas Kopke. From the corner Asprilla was again the provider, his knock back from beyond the far post being driven a foot wide by Rincon.

Germany found the net at the start of the second half even quicker than they had in the first. Moller ran at the defence from the left flank and, after a neat one-two with Bierhoff, beat Mondragon with a low, near post shot.

The response, inevitably, came from Asprilla: a superb overhead kick was well saved by Kopke. Then Lozano had a go, striking a post from 30 yards as the Colombians came more into the game.

A curling free-kick from Victor Aristizabal was pushed over by Kopke before another substitute, Dieter Hamann, brought down Asprilla for Colombia's 87th-minute penalty, which was converted emphatically by the otherwise ineffective Valderrama.

Jurgen Klinsmann, who has had a bruised calf, was brought on for the last 20 minutes - as was Lothar Matthaus, not as a sweeper, the role for which he was recalled to the squad, but in midfield. The more mobile Olaf Thon was nominally the sweeper but made many runs forward, something that perhaps Matthaus is no longer able to do.

Goals: Bierhoff (1) 1-0; Bierhoff (16) 2-0; Moller (46) 3-0; Valderrama (pen 87) 3-1.

GERMANY (1-2-4-1-2): Kopke (Marseilles); Thon (Schalke 04); Worns (Bayer Leverkusen), Kohler (Borussia Dortmund); Reuter (Borussia Dortmund), Hassler (Karlsruhe), Jeremies (1860 Munich), Ziege (Milan); Moller (Borussia Dortmund); Marschall (Kaiserslautern), Bierhoff (Udinese). Substitutes: Hamann (Bayern Munich) for Hassler, h-t; Klinsmann (Tottenham) for Bierhoff, 70; Kirsten (Bayer Leverkusen) for Marschall, 70; Matthaus (Bayern Munich) for Jeremies, 70.

COLOMBIA (4-4-2): Mondragon (Independiente, Arg); Cabrera (Millonarios), Bermudez (Boca Juniors), I Cordoba (San Lorenzo), Santa (Atletico Nacional); Valderrama (Miami Fusion), Serna (Boca Juniors), Lozano (Real Valladolid), Rincon (Corinthians); Valencia (Atletico Nacional), Asprilla (Parma). Substitutes: Aristizabal (Sao Paulo) for Valencia, 52; Palacios (Atletico Nacional) for Bermudez, 52; Ricard (Middlesbrough) for Rincon, 57. Referee: A Ouzounov (Bulgaria). Bookings: Germany: Reuter, Hamann. Colombia: Asprilla, Santa, Serna. Man of the match: Bierhoff. Attendance: 50,000.