Football World Cup: Germans have pedigree to hold off Mexico

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The Independent Online
TO SAY that Jurgen Klinsmann is confident going into today's second-round game against Mexico would be an understatement.

"If we move up a gear and if we win one-on-ones, then I'd like to see the team that's going to beat us," the German captain said yesterday, before the team flew from Nice to Montpellier to face the South Americans this afternoon.

The Mexicans did not seem overly impressed by their opponents' performance so far, however. "I'm glad we're playing the so-called greats. We're not afraid of them. On the contrary, we look forward to the game," the midfielder, Jesus Arellano, said.

"Germany is one of the big ones, but we know we can beat them."

The German team has plodded into the second round, playing some of the dullest soccer of all 16 qualifiers for the second round. But the European champions did win their group and the Germans grow as the tournament gets longer.

"One or two things are not working so well," said the coach, Berti Vogts. "We have to come better over the flanks and our midfield is not working well."

Vogts was a bit more cautious about Mexico than his captain.

"We have been warned. They came back in every game, and they showed very good morale. I am not surprised," Vogts said.

Mexico rallied from two-goal deficits against both Belgium and the Netherlands to earn 2-2 draws. Mexico also beat South Korea 3-1 after falling a goal behind.

The Germans also have a reputation for never giving up. The European champions have already proved that by battling back from 2-0 down to earn a draw against a dangerous Yugoslav team in their second Group F match.

If the Germans have not been convincing so far, history speaks for them: three World Cups, three more finals.

Mexico have beaten the Germans only once in their eight clashes since 1968. The last time the two countries met in the World Cup was in the 1986 quarter-finals in Mexico where Germany just scraped through after a penalty shoot-out.

Lothar Matthaus, 37, is the only player left in the German team who played that day.

"Whether people like it or not, the main thing is winning." he said. "The Germans still win and they win well."

The Germans are expected to start the match with the same team that finished against Iran last Thursday with Matthaus at sweeper and Thomas Hassler as the attacking midfielder alongside Thomas Helmer and Dietmar Hamann.

Mexico rely on Luis Hernandez, with his late-goal heroics - three goals so far - and his partner Cuauhtemoc Blanco.