Daum keeps distance as Germans focus on efficiency

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The Independent Online

England had better beware. The Germans are getting their towels down early again. Perhaps they were anticipating a media inquisition after the week's controversies concerning Christoph Daum, their coach-in-waiting. But flight DE 9126 from Frankfurt, scheduled to arrive at Luton Airport at 4.10pm yesterday, landed precisely 44 minutes early and the German squad nipped off to Hertfordshire pretty sharpish.

England had better beware. The Germans are getting their towels down early again. Perhaps they were anticipating a media inquisition after the week's controversies concerning Christoph Daum, their coach-in-waiting. But flight DE 9126 from Frankfurt, scheduled to arrive at Luton Airport at 4.10pm yesterday, landed precisely 44 minutes early and the German squad nipped off to Hertfordshire pretty sharpish.

Rudi Völler, stepping aboard a silver Mercedes-Benz coach, accepted a handshake and warm greetings to England but confirmed there would be no press conference until lunchtime today. And his friend Daum, the Bayer Leverkusen coach who has endured more press coverage this past few days for his alleged off-field activities than he has received in 14 years of management, would not be joining the party at all.

Daum pleaded his innocence yesterday in the face of a storm of accusations that have led Uli Hoeness, the Bayern Munich general manager and a member of the national selection committee, to suggest he is not fit to take over the national team. In order to prevent any further disruption to the Germans' preparation for this Saturday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley, Daum is staying at home.

But he insists he will be signing his three-year contract with the German Football Federation in the next few weeks to take over from Völler, the caretaker national coach, at the end of this season, as originally agreed.

Daum said he will sue Hoeness for libel but will miss Saturday's historic finale at Wembley. "I have cancelled, unfortunately," Daum said. "I would have so much loved to say farewell to Wembley. But if I appeared there, it would just lead to more trouble.

"There is nothing to be revealed. I have done nothing wrong and I will do nothing wrong. We have to put the facts on the table and then close this whole file as quickly as possible. All of this is damaging football." In playing terms, as Germany seek to continue their good form under Völler and exact revenge for their Euro 2000 defeat by England, a more significant absentee on the German plane was Mehmet Scholl.

The Bayern Munich playmaker has stayed in Germany for minor surgery to his right knee, which he injured in last week's Champions' League defeat away to Paris St-Germain. Scholl was due to arrive in St Albans late last night but must be a doubt for Saturday's game.

Carsten Jancker, his Bayern team-mate, was not seen at Arsenal's London Colney headquarters, because of a toe injury. But he should train today and play on Saturday.

Euro 2000 might have been even more of a shambles for Germany than for England. But following the 4-1 win over Spain and the World Cup qualifying victory over Greece, Germanic efficiency seemed to be back in order before the Daum storm started brewing.

Jesting that they were disappointed there was no English rain to greet them, the German players were in high spirits yesterday. It must be a relief to be focusing on playing football.

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