Football / World Cup USA '94: Voller strikes to inspire Germans

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The Independent Online
Germany. .3

Voller 5, 39, Klinsmann 10

Belgium. .2

Grun 7, Albert 90

Attendance: 60,246

THE World Cup holds these truths to be self-evident: that the real competition begins with the knock-out stages and that the Germans get stronger as the tournament progresses. Chicago provided ample evidence on both counts yesterday.

There remains to Germany a defensive vulnerability that leaves them still short of the intimidating force that won the Championship four years ago. But this was more the sound unit, capable of moments of inspiration, that makes Germany Europe's best challengers to South America.

The single-goal margin of victory deceived; it should have been trebled. Both strikers, Jurgen Klinsmann, who scored his fifth goal of the tournament, and Rudi Voller, who made it and scored the other two, could have had hat-tricks as the desperate Belgians left themselves open to counter-attack in seeking to claw their way back from a 3-1 half-time deficit.

Belgium should have had a penalty - the denial of which they say they will write to Fifa to complain about - and finally they did grab a last-gasp goal as reward for their determination not to go out with a whimper. But these were blips on the cardiograph that sees the German heart beating with renewed vigour. They will go to New York for a quarter-final against Mexico or Bulgaria a week today with confidence reinforced.

Both teams appeared relieved to be out of their midweek pressure cookers in Dallas and Washington, with rain falling refreshingly on Soldier Field and a cooling wind blowing off Lake Michigan. The sad formality of a moment's silence for the murdered Colombian defender, Andres Escobar, over, an opening 10 minutes that yielded three goals and was prelude to an open, entertaining match offered evidence of relish on the players' part.

After only five minutes, Lothar Matthaus found Voller in the clear amid a Belgian defence still advancing after clearing its lines, and he clipped the ball neatly over Michel Preud'homme. Belgium replied only two minutes later, however, when Enzo Scifo's free kick was headed weakly by Voller, off Guido Buchwald, to Georges Grun who accepted the gift gratefully and shot home from eight yards.

Three minutes more and the atoning Voller had laid on a goal for Klinsmann. First he played the ball forward to his partner up front, then took the clever backheeled return before releasing Klinsmann to shoot home low into the far corner.

Voller's second, decisive, goal came six minutes before half-time when he headed home a corner by Thomas Hassler, Preud'homme left grasping and contemplating probably his only error in four matches. He redeemed himself in the second half with splendid saves from a Klinsmann volley and a Voller header among several chances for the Germans on the break. They thus invested the upending of Josip Weber by Thomas Helmer, replacement for the sent-home Stefan Effenberg, with a significance it might not otherwise have had.

It looked a sound case for a penalty; perhaps the referee, Kurt Roethlisberg, was taking into account the clumsiness the Croatian-born striker had shown hitherto. Either way, the Belgians later said that it looked a case of there appearing to be one law for bigger nations.

Philippe Albert's added- time goal, driven home after a one-two with Marc Emmers, will fuel their case but, in truth, for every one chance they had, the Germans had two. They had had their moments, but seemed incapable of further progress.

Not so the Germans. Their only concern will be a foot injury to Matthaus which required an injection before the match and forced him to leave the game at half-time. Otherwise there were signs that Berti Vogts, their manager, had put together their most potent blend. Buchwald's presence in central midfield gave them a solidity that frees the more creative members, Hassler, and Martin Wagner, at left back, added a dash that the dropped Andreas Brehme had lacked.

Above all, there was Voller, in his first start of the tournament, providing the support that the excellent, effervescent Klinsmann has been lacking. 'You saw a top class German team today,' said Vogts. 'Unfortunately we didn't score four or five but we deserved it. Yes, we have started slowly but hopefully we will now do as we have done before.' To use a word popular in these parts, they are beginning to look 'ossum' again.

GERMANY (5-3-2): Illgner (Cologne); Berthold (VfB Stuttgart), Helmer (Bayern Munich), Matthaus (Bayern Munich), Kohler (Juventus), Wagner (Kaiserslautern); Sammer (Borussia Dortmund), Buchwald (VfB Stuttgart), Hassler (Roma); Klinsmann (Monaco), Voller (Marseille). Substitutes: Brehme (Kaiserslautern) for Matthaus, h-t; Kuntz (Kaiserslautern) for Klinsmann, 85.

BELGIUM (4-4-2): Preud'homme (Benfica); Emmers, De Wolf, Albert, Smidts (all Anderlecht); Staelens (Club Bruges), Grun (Parma), Van Der Elst (Club Bruges), Scifo (Monaco); Weber (Anderlecht), Nilis (PSV Eindhoven). Substitutes: Boffin (Anderlecht) for Smidts, 65; Czerniatynski (Mechelen) for Nilis, 77.

Referee: K Rothlisberger (Switzerland).

(Photograph omitted)