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ENGLAND may have a new coach but some things in international football never change and Germany will again be the team to beat for anyone who hopes to take the World Cup from them in the United States in July.
If there was any doubt about the quality of the opposition Denmark provided for his baptism, Terry Venables saw for himself last night that his new charges will need to be at their very best if they are to build on the promising start they gave him at Wembley three weeks ago when they face the Germans in Berlin next month.
Two goals from Jurgen Klinsmann, taking his total to 19 in 57 internationals, brought the most enduringly successful team in world football a deserved victory over opponents who were again undermined by the shortcomings in attack which were at the root of their 1-0 defeat at home to France last time out. Without Roberto Baggio, absent injured, they lacked the width to inconveniece a characteristically disciplined German defence.
The gleaming, state of the art Gottlieb-Daimler stadium was full, the anthems belted out with rare gusto, and the atmosphere and quality of the combatants was such that it was as if the World Cup had started early. Unfortunately the game didn't, kicking off some seven minutes late, and it was another 20 or so before a slow burner began to do justice to its setting.
Ignition came with the first save of consequence, after 32 minutes. Suddenly, belatedly, the Germans asserted themselves, and Klinsmann twice had Gianluca Pagliuca at full stretch in repelling the matching headers with which he met crosses from Thomas Hassler and Stefan Effenberg, close in.
Scenting blood, the Germans were back immediately and should have scored after 36 minutes when Jurgen Kohler headed against the crossbar and Matthias Sammer spurned the easiest of chances in lashing over with time and space in which to set himself and make sure. As if to point up the Germans' profligacy, the Italians burgled the lead after 44 minutes, when Dino Baggio stole in at the far post to dispatch Roberto Donadoni's left-wing cross with a routine nod.
The injustice was quickly remedied. The first half was in injury time when Sammer cleverly let the ball run to the byline on the left before delivering a cross which left Klinsmann with the easiest of close-range finishes.
As productive with his feet as he is with his head, Monaco's marauding centre-forward had an adoring crowd chanting his name in ecstasy two minutes into the second half when he steered the ball just inside the post Andreas Moller had shivered to create the chance.
Pierluigi Casiraghi wasted a penetrative cross from Paolo Maldini by heading weakly wide of the far post, but a draw would have been a travesty. Germany were much the stronger side and would have had a third but for the plunging save with which Pagliuca met Moller's late header.
And so to Berlin. England may need to rebuild the wall to keep them out.
GERMANY (3-5-2): Illgner (Cologne); Buchwald (VfB Stuttgart), Matthaus (Bayern Munich), Kohler (Juventus); Strunz (VfB Stuttgart), Effenberg (Fiorentina), Sammer (Borussia Dortmund), Hassler (Roma), Brehme (Kaiserslautern); Klinsmann (Monaco), Moller (Juventus). Substitutes: Berthold (VfB Stuttgart) for Kohler, 72; Basler (Werder Bremen) for Hassler, 78.
ITALY (4-4-2): Pagliuca (Sampdoria); Benarrivo (Parma), Costacurta, Baresi, Maldini; Donadini (all Milan), D Baggio (Juventus), Albertini (Milan), Signori (Lazio); Mancini (Sampdoria), Casiraghi (Lazio). Substitutes: Evani (Sampdoria) for Albertini, h-t; Zola (Parma) for Mancini, h- t; Massaro (Milan) for Casiraghi, 64; Stroppa (Foggia) for D Baggio, 71.
Referee: J McCluskey (Scotland).Reuse content