Germany serve notice

Germany 2 Czech Republic 0
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The Independent Online
A comfortable win for Germany, and Jurgen Klinsmann was not even playing. But neither, in future, will Jurgen Kohler, who flies back to Germany today for a knee operation. Unlike Mario Basler, who went under the surgeon's knife yesterday, he is unlikely to return to the tournament.

Kohler's injury, sustained in an innocent challenge on Pavel Kuka after 14 minutes, was the only blot on the landscape for the Germans. Even without Klinsmann - who was suspended - and Kohler they were far too good for a limited Czech Republic side.

There will be stronger tests ahead, notably next week against Italy, but given that they played the second half in second gear this was still a convincing demonstration of German might. It will take a good side to beat them and the bookmakers have already cut their odds.

Their win, the first of the tournament, was secured by two well-taken goals in the space of five first-half minutes by Christian Ziege and Andreas Moller. The Czechs continued to strive but, after that, there was an element of exhibition about the game.

The Germans were equally impressive with and without the ball. When they had it their movement, passing and counter-attacking were full of invention. When the Czechs had the ball they were harried and hustled to distraction.

The flaw in Germany's game was discipline. Six of them were booked - and four Czechs - as David Elleray followed Uefa's request for strict refereeing to the letter. Some of the bookings were harsh but, once Elleray had made his attitude clear, some challenges were foolish, especially in a game which was already won and lost.

One player who escaped Elleray's wrath was Matthias Sammer, the German sweeper - but he had been forewarned. He had been sent off by Elleray earlier in the season playing for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions' League against Ajax. Afterwards he described Elleray as a "typical English referee". Sammer had a good game, moving smoothly from defence, to midfield, to attack. Both goalscorers and Stefan Reuter also impressed as did Thomas Hassler in the first half.

The result reflected the pattern of matches between these sides. The last time a Czech team had beaten a German one was in 1964, when they went under the names of Czechoslovakia and West Germany. Twelve games had passed since then but, for the noisy Czech supporters, there was the memory of 1976 when they had defeated Germany in the final of this competition - on penalties after a 2-2 draw in Belgrade.

A similar Czech success only seemed possible for the first dozen minutes during which time the lively Pavel Kuka had turned Ziege and rasped a shot across Andreas Kopke's goal.

Four minutes later Petr Kouba made his first save of the game, parrying a close-range Fredi Bobic volley. From Hassler's subsequent corner Moller directed a powerful header just past the far post. Hassler shot wide soon after as Germany, having settled, drove forward for victory.

It did not take long to accomplish it. After 25 minutes Ziege pushed down the left wing, found Thomas Helmer who, in turn, fed Bobic. Ziege, meanwhile, had continued his run and, as he drifted across Bobic the ball was passed on. Off balance he stepped by two defenders before drilling the ball low inside the left-hand post.

Had Pavel Nedved converted a half-chance a minute later the game may have had a chance. Instead, it became a German stroll as five minutes later the ball was again nestling in the corner of Kouba's goal. This time it had been driven in by Moller at the end of a 40-yard run. The goalkeeper may not have felt as blameless this time.

Nedved again went close to an instant reply, but his volley went over. Patrik Berger, one of five Czechs playing in the Bundesliga, inspired a brief rally after coming on but Germany were never really troubled. They should have added to their tally, Kouba denying Helmer and Hassler while Nedved cleared off the line from Ziege.

Only 37,300 were there to see it, way below capacity but, since Old Trafford tickets have to be bought on the same overloaded phoneline as Wembley's, that should be no real surprise. Those that did attend may have seen the future champions.

Goals: Ziege (25) 1-0; Moller (31) 2-0.

GERMANY (1-4-3-2): Kopke (Eintract Frankfurt); Sammer (Dortmund); Reuter (Borussia Dortmund), Kohler (Borussia Dortmund), Helmer (Bayern Munich), Ziege (Bayern Munich); Hassler (Karlsruhe), Eilts (Bremen), Moller (Borussia Dortmund); Bobic (Stuttgart), Kuntz (Besiktas). Substitutes: Babbel (Bayern Munich) for Kohler, 17; Strunz (Bayern Munich) for Bobic, 64; Bierhoff (Udinese) for Kuntz, 82.

CZECH REPUBLIC (1-2-5-2): Kouba (Sparta Prague); Kadlec (Kaiserslauten); Hornak (Sparta Prague), Suchoparek (Slavia Prague); Latal (Schalke 04), Frydek (Sparta Prague), Bejbl (Slavia Prague), Nemec (Schalke 04), Nedved (Sparta Prague); Kuka (Kaiserslauten), Poborsky (Slavia Prague). Substitutes: Berger (Borussia Dortmund) for Poborsky, h-t; Drulak (Petra Drnovice) for Frydek, h-t.

Bookings: Germany: Ziege, Kuntz, Moller, Babbel, Reuter, Hassler. Czech Republic: Bejbl, Nedved, Kadlec, Drulak.

Referee: D Elleray (England).

Man of the match: Moller Attendance: 37,300