Germany scored three early goals and routed Ukraine 4–1 yesterday to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
The two teams drew 1–1 in Kiev in the first leg of the playoff Saturday and the three–time champion went through 5–2 on aggregate.
Midfielder Michael Ballack, striker Oliver Neuville and defender Marko Rehmer scored inside the first 15 minutes and Ballack added another early in the second half as Germany tore apart Ukraine's shaky defense and dominated the match.
"We were under great pressure," Ballack said. "Failing to qualify would have been a huge disappointment for the entire nation."
Germany has never failed to qualify for a World Cup.
"It's a great relief. It wasn't so simple," said coach Rudi Voeller. "I don't want to single out anyone, we were strong as a team."
In 10 years of independence, Ukraine has now come up short in three straight playoffs. It was ousted by Croatia before the 1998 World Cup in France and was beaten by Slovenia in the playoff for a place at Euro 2000.
Star striker Andriy Shevchenko of AC Milan got Ukraine's only goal in the final minute of the match.
Germany got off to a dream start by going ahead in the fourth minute. Andrii Nesmachnyi's clumsy attempt to clear the ball bounced off Neuville, Bernd Schneider picked it up on the right flank and sent a good cross. Ballack, who also scored Germany's goal in Kiev, connected from 11 meters (yards) with a powerful header.
Just 11 minutes into the match, Germany was up 2–0. Schneider sent a corner from the right, Marko Rehmer's glancing header was parried by Maxim Levytsky but the Ukrainian goalkeeper could not hold onto the ball and Neuville pounced on it to score form close range. The Bayer Leverkusen striker had been suspended for the Kiev match.
Levytsky then did well to punch away a drive by Dietmar Hamman but the resulting corner produced Germany's third in the 15th.
Neuville took the corner, Levytsky terribly misjudged the flight of the ball to remain stranded away from the line and Rehmer again exploited the Ukrainian defenders' weakness in the air to head home.
Shevchenko threatened Oliver Kahn's goal for the first time in the 25th but his deflected shot went just wide. Ukraine never really recovered from the early shock and the Germans easily controlled the match.
Six minutes into the second half, Ballack used another Neuville cross to score his second of the evening before a delirious capacity crowd of 52,000 at the Westfalenstadion.
Ballack, a Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, led Germany with six goals in World Cup qualifying.
Shevchenko, who had an Europe–high nine goals in qualifying, got his 10th by using some slackness in the German defense to score in the final minute.
Germany once comfortably led its qualifying group but then lost 5–1 to England and drew 0–0 with Finland, both at home, to have to go to the playoff.
The victory allowed Germany to maintain its record of qualifying for every World Cup it has entered – 15.
"We really played an excellent match. The atmosphere was so great, we couldn't lose," said substitute striker Oliver Bierhoff.
Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said the team had been under enormous pressure before the match.
"It's a great relief. We exploded today and showed what we are really capable of," Kahn said.
Germany: Oliver Kahn; Marko Rehmer (Frank Baumann, 87), Jens Nowotny, Thomas Linke; Bernd Schneider, Carsten Ramelow, Michael Ballack, Dietmar Hamann, Christian Ziege; Carsten Jancker (Oliver Bierhoff, 58), Oliver Neuville (Lars Ricken, 70).
Ukraine:Maxim Levytsky; Oleh Luzhnyi, Andrii Nesmachnyi (Serhiy Shyshchenko, 55), Olexander Holovko, Vladyslav Vashchuk; Viktor Skripnik, Henadiy Zubov, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Andrii Husin, 24), Dmytro Perfenov; Andriy Shevchenko, Andriy Vorobei (Serhiy Rebrov, 70).Reuse content