Football: Germany given a head start by Moller

Germany 2 Moller 9, Klinsmann 66 United States 0 Att: 43, 815
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The Independent Online
HERE THEY come again. Germany smoothly brushed aside the challenge of the United States here last night, their victory in Group F barely reflecting their domination of an attractive, but one-sided game.

The promise of a stronger US team for France 98 failed to materialise. Although the Americans always looked competent, they rarely inconvenienced an experienced German defence. The old warhorses, Andreas Moller and Jurgen Klinsmann scored the goals and Klinsmann, appearing in his third World Cup finals, looks ominously fresh and ready to respond once again to the smell of international battle.

Germany got off to a flying start, their strength in the air scattering a nervous US defence. In the second minute, Oliver Bierhoff climbed steeply to head a right wing corner into the lap of Kasey Keller, the Leicester City goalkeeper. Seven minutes later, a left wing corner from Jurgen Kohler was headed back across goal by Klinsmann and nodded in at the near post by Moller.

Although the game was theoretically a sell-out, there were substantial bare patches in the stands at the Parc des Princes - a galling sight for the thousands of fans watching on TV.

The Germans dominated the first half, with Moller and Jorg Heinrich tearing holes in the right side of the US defence. Heinrich was tripped just outside the area but Thomas Hassler wasted the free-kick. A few minutes later Heinrich turned Mike Burns and his low, fierce cross carved through the penalty area without finding a German boot.

The US attack, lively and willing enough in midfield, melted on the edge of the German box. Apart from one scrambled clearance from Eric Wynalda, Andreas Kopke in the German goal had nothing to do.

Burns was dumped for the second half in favour of Frankie Hejduk, in an attempt to stop the flying Heinrich along the left flank. Almost immediately Hassler limped off and was replaced by Dietmar Hamann.

The German momentum appeared to slow a little and the Americans found a way through the three times world champions' defence on the left and almost scored. Hejduk had the ball across the box and Claudio Reyna dived to head towards the corner but Kopke scrambled to save.

Backed by thunderous support, the Americans found new strength and temporarily pushed the Germans back. Heinrich restored normal service down the left, sending a low cross into the path of Klinsmann, who fired first time narrowly wide.

The Germans poured forward in the final quarter in an effort to finish off the Americans. Wynalda, ineffectual up front, went off in favour of the fresh legs of the former Premiership player Roy Wegerle.

But the switch backfired. While the Americans were still sorting out their new formation, Bierhoff broke away down the right. He centred to Klinsmann, who chested the ball down, stepped easily around the American captain Tom Dooley, and joyously fired the ball home.

"It's important that we got three points. We started very well," Berti Vogts, the Germany coach, said. "Then we lost our way. I can't be happy with the way we played."

Vogts was not happy about Hassler's injury either. The midfielder, who missed much of last season after a foot operation, will have an X-ray on his left foot today.

GERMANY (3-3-2-2) Kopke (Marseilles); Worns (Bayer Leverkusen), Thon (Schalke 04), Kohler (Borussia Dortmund); Reuter (Borussia Dortmund), Jeremies (1860 Munich), Heinrich (Borussia Dortmund); Hassler (Karlsruhe), Moller (Borussia Dortmund); Bierhoff (Udinese), Klinsmann (Tottenham, capt). Substitutes: Hamann (Bayern Munich) for Hassler, 50; Ziege (Milan) for Reuter, 69.

USA (3-5-1-1): Keller (Leicester City); Regis (Karlsruhe), Dooley (Columbus Crew, capt), Pope (Washington DC United); Burns (New England Revolution), Maisonneuve (Columbus Crew), Reyna (Vfl Wolfsburg), Deering (Vfl Wolfsburg), Jones (Los Angeles Galaxy); Stewart (NAC Breda; Wynalda (San Jose Clash). Substitutes: Hejduk (Tampa Bay Mutiny) for Burns, h-t; Wegerle (Tampa Bay Mutiny)for Wynalda, 65; Ramos (New York/New Jersey MetroStars) for Deering, 70.

Referee: Said Belqola (Morocco).