Football / World Cup USA '94: Klinsmann provides Germany's first thrust

Germany. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Bolivia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

GERMANY'S attempt to become the first European nation to win the World Cup in the Americas got off to a satisfactory start yesterday when they overcame Bolivia, as well as stifling heat and humidity at Soldier Field, with a goal on the hour by Jurgen Klinsmann.

The tournament's opening game ended in controversy when Bolivia's Marco Etcheverry, an over-zealous substitute after a seven-month absence with knee trouble, was sent off four minutes and two touches after coming on. The punishment, for what appeared to be an innocuous retaliation when Lothar Matthaus squared up to him, hardly fitted the crime.

The opening ceremony - which featured Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, hundreds of dancers and President Clinton, who was roundly booed - had been a typically American assault on the senses. While the match had problems living up to the hype, let alone matching the choreography, it was one of the more entertaining starts to the competition in the post-war era. Five bookings and the dismissal of Etcheverry did not reflect the nature of a surprisingly open contest.

Germany, beginning their quest for a record fourth World Cup, received prompt confirmation of the widely predicted refereeing clampdown. Less than seven minutes had elapsed before Jurgen Kohler, one of two defensive markers, was shown a yellow card for fouling Julio Cesar Baldivieso.

The first shot of the tournament took a further two minutes to materialise, Erwin Sanchez's free- kick forcing Bodo Illgner to plunge to his right. Much had been made, both by members of Berti Vogts's squad and the US media, of the 'German mentality', and with Lothar Matthaus pulling the strings, the champions began to find their rhythm.

Karl-Heinz Reidle ought to have given Germany a 14th-minute lead. Andy Moller's cross gave him a free header, but the Dortmund striker directed the ball straight at a relieved Carlos Leonel Trucco. The Bolivian keeper, known as 'El Loco' in the grand tradition of Andean custodians, then tipped over a goalbound drive from Matthias Sammer.

Bolivia drew heart from their double escape and a jinking run by Vladimir Soria, swiftly followed by a strong shot by Sanchez which Illgner pushed behind at full- stretch, ensured the backing of neutrals. There were, however, signs of indiscipline, Baldivieso and Soria being cautioned late in the first half.

Sanchez was carried off early in the second half after being tripped by Thomas Berthold. No sooner had he returned than Soria was writhing on the ground, dumped there by Moller, who became the fourth player to be cautioned.

Moller threatened to make his name in more wholesome fashion after 56 minutes, only for Trucco to dive at his feet as he surged on to Sammer's defence-splitting pass. Maintaining the tit-for-tat pattern, Luis Cristaldo immediately fired high and wide at the opposite end after finding space on a left-wing overlap.

It proved a costly miss. Thomas Hassler timed to perfection his run to Matthaus's long pass from the back, leaving the Bolivians appealing forlornly for offside. Living up to his nickname, Trucco charged out of his area and tried to tackle the little German. Hassler merely laid the ball off and as it momentarily ran loose, Klinsmann arrived to stroke it into an unguarded net from 15 yards.

Etcheverry then came and went, taking Bolivian hopes with him. He cut a contrite figure afterwards, apologising to 'my team-mates and our people' before adding pointedly: 'a referee can always make mistakes - we are all human.' The real test of Germany's mortality is yet to come.

GERMANY (1-2-5-2): Illgner (Cologne); Matthaus (Bayern Munich); Berthold (VfB Stuttgart), Kohler (Juventus); Hassler (Roma), Effenberg (Fiorentina), Sammer (Borussia Dortmund), Moller (Juventus), Brehme (Kaiserslautern); Riedle (Borussia Dortmund), Klinsmann (Monaco), Substitutes: Basler (Werder Bremen) for Riedle, 59; Strunz (VfB Stuttgart) for Hassler, 82.

BOLIVIA (3-4-2-1): Trucco (Bolivar); Rimba (Bolivar), Quinteros (The Strongest), Sandy (Bolivar); Borja (Bolivar), Soria (Bolivar), Melgar (The Strongest), Cristaldo (Bolivar); E Sanchez (Boavista), Baldivieso (Bolivar); Ramallo (Oriente Petrolero). Substitutes: Moreno (Blooming) for Baldivieso, 65; Etcheverry (Colo Colo) for Ramalo, 78.

Referee: A Brizio Carter (Mexico).

(Photograph omitted)