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Football: German team holds crisis talks

GERMANY'S PLAYERS held a clear-the-air meeting yesterday before their final Group F encounter with Iran today - and then warned that they are ready to step up a gear after two unimpressive performances.

The triple world champions struggled to beat the United States 2-0 and just scraped a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia, leaving them needing a draw against Iran to go through.

Should the Germans lose and fail to qualify, it would be the first time they will have been knocked out in the first round since 1938 - the last time the World Cup was held in France. With this in mind, Germany's captain, Jurgen Klinsmann, called the meeting to sort out the squad's problems before they meet a resurgent Iran, who are still celebrating after beating the Americans 2-1 last Sunday.

"The meeting was what was required after the Yugoslav match and we all had our say and got things off our chests," the sweeper Olaf Thon said. The 32-year-old Schalke 04 player, whose superb form over the last two seasons earned him a recall, dismissed suggestions there was a rift with the coach, Berti Vogts. "It is normal after two below-par performances for the players to hold their own talks," he said.