Klinsmann feeds the fire of German expectation

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The Independent Football

Berlin has not seen a party like it since the Wall came down. Of the hundreds of thousands of Germans who will cheer on their national team against Sweden today, in squares and parks from Augsburg to Zwickau, the million people expected on the "Fan Mile" will be the most photographed and filmed.

This is the road which runs, for a mile, through the city's green lung, the Tiergarten, from the Brandenburg Gate. Just 17 years ago the triumphal arch was surrounded by concrete and barbed wire. It was just inside East Berlin, with the Tiergarten in West Berlin. For the World Cup it has been transformed into a party mile and nowhere so clearly reflects the growing confidence in Jürgen Klinsmann's exciting young side.

The city has fenced off most of the park (imagine Hyde Park) and shut the road (imagine the Mall). Along it are dozens of food and drink stalls, entertainments including beach volleyball pitches and bungee-jumping, and six huge video screens. When Germany defeated Poland there were 500,000 fans there. When they defeated Ecuador, on a Tuesday afternoon, there were 700,000 there. This afternoon a million are anticipated with the vast majority of them believing they will see victory over the obdurate Swedes.

Far from dousing this growing expectation Klinsmann is feeding it, presumably working on the basis that, even with three wins behind them, his team's confidence remains fragile and they need building up rather than deflating.

"We believe in our strengths and we believe we can beat Sweden," said Klinsmann. "Our expectations as a soccer nation and the World Cup host don't end with the second round or the quarter-finals. We are looking forward to this game and we want to play three more."

When he became coach two years ago, Klinsmann pledged to lead the host nation to victory. While his positive approach was admired it was put down to his being influenced by American attitudes while living in California rather than any innate belief in his players' abilities. So convinced were Germans that they lacked the necessary players several leading coaches turned the job down before Klinsmann took it.

One of the youngsters who has emerged is Philipp Lahm. He said: "We are relaxed. We knew from the start that playing at home would mean extra pressure. The coach's words are extra motivation for us."

Klinsmann added: "We have a very good feeling. But we'll have to be very, very careful, especially on their set-pieces." Sweden scored twice from set-pieces, and hit the crossbar twice more, against England. Germany are yet to concede from a set-piece.

The Germans spent much of Thursday's session practising, and defending against, set-pieces. Sweden spent most of the day resting and practising penalties. "Eating, drinking and sleeping - that's absolutely most important," the Sweden coach Lars Lagerback said. "You have to get fresh again after playing three [group] matches and we only had three days of rest."

Both teams were thought to have spent yesterday on patterns of play.

Lagerback said: "The most important thing is that we have an experienced referee who can handle the situation with a lot of German fans in the stands." Sweden themselves expect to have 20,000 fans in Munich.

Sweden have won 13 to Germany's 12 in 31 meetings. But such statistics will mean little to the million believers on the Fan Mile today.

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