Vogts saves his best put-down until the last

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The Independent Online
Germany responded yesterday with a famous Churchillian gesture of their own to the tabloid newspaper which tiresomely declared football war on them on Monday.

Berti Vogts' team have enough casualties on their hands after the battle with Croatia to get involved in any further hostilities, real or imagined. Wembley tonight, the German coach trusts, will be the scene of a football match - nothing more.

Their sombre mood of Sunday, when they counted the physical cost of their bruising quarter-final victory against theCroats gave way, within the German camp, to lightheartedness and a degree of fatalism which one sensed was a deliberate ploy to lull the England team into a false sense of security.

Their talisman, Jurgen Klinsmann, will get no closer to the action tonight than possibly a seat on the substitutes' bench - as a spectator. It was significant, however, that the Germans had not given up hope on his torn calf recovering in time for Sunday's final. Such nerve. Klinsmann was a quick healer, Vogts said.

As for the former Spur himself he had hardly stepped foot outside the "massage room" to make his re-acquaintance with the English capital since flying down from Manchester on Monday. He was undergoing constant heat and laser treatment since having seven or eight injections in the calf immediately after the game.

"While our doctors are very good, I personally don't think I will be playing with my team mates tomorrow," he said. "Such an injury usually takes ten days to heal... not being able to play in the semi-final is very frustrating."

His fellow striker, Fredi Bobic, injured in the same game, has flown home to see whether his torn shoulder cartilage requires an operation. "If not," said the interpreter, "he will back to cheer the team on in the next matches." He meant match. Old habits die hard.

The relaxed atmosphere, first generated at the squad's training camp in Ireland, has continued to stand them in good stead throughout these adversities. The German press expressed surprise that, unlike with one or two other countries, there had been no internal strife in their own team's camp. Vogts replied: "The truth is there have been problems but we haven't ventured outside with them. It only seemed to be quiet on the German front."

Asked whether tonight's highly emotive occasion might effect some of his players - only two of whom, Thomas Hassler and Andreas Moller, have played at Wembley before - Vogts came back with one of the great put- downs of this tournament: "No, not at all. The German team is quite used to reaching the semi-finals of major tournaments. So far as we're concerned it's a perfectly normal European Championship."

The little coach was clearly in good form. If his feet were as quick as his mind, one sensed the former full-back might still give Anderton and McManaman a run for their money. Would Gazza cry? "Yes I think there would be tears. Whether they are tears of joy or disappointment remains to be seen, but cry he will."

England would begin the game as clear favourites, he said, shifting a little more pressure the host's way. "They have warmed to their task and gone from strength to strength."

He enjoyed a "close, cordial relationship" with Terry Venables, he said, to whom he had given all Germany's files on Georgia and Moldova, two of England's opponents in the World Cup qualifiers.