Football: German pride at a low pitch

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The Independent Online
THE GERMAN television commentator's desperation grew. "Where is the cross, where is the cross?" he asked. The first useful one came after 60 minutes. Then there was one good attempt at goal from Ulf Kirsten. And that was that, as the national team went down to a 1-0 defeat against Scotland, after being completely outplayed in the second half.

This cannot be the sum total of German football, everybody agrees, but then, they have just lost to a country ranked No 28 in the world, having already been beaten by the United States in a friendly, and Turkey in a Euro 2000 qualifier.

That cross, eagerly awaited by strikers of the calibre of Oliver Bierhoff, never came. Why, no one can understand. Almost all the plausible national players were on show, including the talented gang from Bayern Munich. The manager tried them in all kinds of permutations, but still they were unable to string three decent passes together.

Perhaps it is because of all that chopping and changing that the team cannot gel, argue the critics. "There is no more time for experiments," declared Bild, the leading national tabloid. The next game, on 4 June, is a qualifier against Moldova.

It is likely that Germany will win that game, just as they triumphed recently in Northern Ireland despite all the talk of a deep crisis. They will probably qualify from a weak group, but that cannot conceal the fact that German football is in trouble, with the former international Gunter Netzer laying the blame on "our lack of creative players".

After the resignation of Berti Vogts last year, Germany was lumbered with Erich Ribbeck as national coach, because no one else wanted the job. To suggest that Ribbeck is not highly rated would be an understatement. But it is his unenviable task to build a new team after the old boys who represented the country at the World Cup, retired. Ribbeck must experiment, because almost none of the newcomers, ignored by Vogts and now in their late 20s, has enough experience at international level. And because he keeps changing them, none are given a real chance now.

Consequently, the team is demoralised and the same papers that hounded Vogts out of his job are now clamouring for his return.

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