IT WOULD be romantic to say that when he came on at halftime, for his 125th cap and his fifth straight World Cup finals appearance, there was a sense that Lothar Matthaus would turn this game around. Many Germans may have believed it but within nine minutes of his coming on, Germany were two down and Matthaus was looking every one of his 37 years.
Then the little man, and his side, got upset. It is as well that somebody got them angry in their second World Cup finals game. People say they are not a shadow of the great German sides but at least now the world knows what they are like when they are down.
Yugoslavia were back in the World Cup finals for the first time since their country's break-up but their side showed no signs of breaking up - until Matthaus greased the German machine.
Spearheaded by Predrag Mijatovic, the man who led Real Madrid to last month's European Cup victory against Juventus, Yugoslavia immediately reminded the Germans of who they once were - before civil war fragmented the nation.
Germany's goalkeeper, Andreas Kopke, was having one of those days. A harmless looking cross from the left from Mijatovic in the 13th minute looked like it was Kopke's ball or nobody's. It bounced once, Kopke misjudged it, Dejan Stankovic appeared to get the outside of a boot to it, the ball hit the post and trundled into the net before the German defender Jens Jeremies could intercept it.
The Yugoslavs took control. Even Matthaus's half-time entry did not look like stemming the flow. By stepping on to the pitch here, Matthaus equalled the record of Mexico's Antonio Carbajal, who appeared in consecutive World Cup finals between 1950-66. With his 22nd World Cup finals appearance, the German also equalled the record held by Diego Maradona, West Germany's Uwe Seeler and Poland's Wladyslaw Zmuda.
Not a man for public hugs, the coach Berti Vogts recorded the occasion with the warmest embrace he could muster on the day, a fist clasp with Matthaus and the suggestion of a smile.
Matthaus or no, within nine minutes of the break, the Yugoslavs were two up and Kopke's nightmare looked complete. Darko Kovacevic crossed from the right, Kopke appeared to have smothered the ball, but it slithered past his body and Dragan Stojkovic had little trouble prodding it home. Group F began to look wide open. It began to look a question of how many Yugoslavia could score.
Enter the little man. Matthaus turned the game around, his day spoilt only by a yellow card for a trip on Stojkovic in the 77th minute.
Until almost the last 15 minutes, the Germans were still two down. But, prodded by Matthaus, they threw everything at the upstarts from the Balkans. In the 74th minute, their pressure paid off. The substitute Michael Tarnat, on for Jeremies, hammered a free-kick towards goal. The ball ricocheted off Sinisa Mihajlovic and cannoned into the net.
Six minutes later, after intense pressure, Germany were level. Jurgen Klinsmann just failed to reach a corner from Olaf Thon from the right but Oliver Bierhoff was behind him to crash an unstoppable header past Ivica Kralj.
For the last 10 minutes, the Yugoslavs appeared to have been jolted back to reality, content with a draw. Vladimir Jugovic sounded a warning that, if the Yugoslavs go further, he will be the man to watch. Until Matthaus's entry, Jugovic bossed the midfield, spraying passes and waltzing past the German defence almost at will.
GERMANY (3-5-2): Kopke (Marseilles); Worns (Bayer Leverkusen), Kohler (Borussia Dortmund), Thon (Schalke 04); Heinrich, Moller (both Borussia Dortmund), Jeremies (1860 Munich), Hamann (Bayern Munich), Ziege (Milan); Klinsmann (Tottenham Hotspur), Bierhoff (Udinese). Substitutes: Matthaus (Bayern Munich) for Hamann, h-t; Kirsten (Bayer Leverkusen) for Moller, 58; Tarnat (Bayern Munich) for Ziege, 67.
YUGOSLAVIA (4-4-2): Kralj (Partizan Belgrade); Mihajlovic (Sampdoria), Komljenovic (MSV Duisburg), Petrovic (Urawa Red Diamonds), Djorovic (Celta Vigo); Jokanovic (Tenerife), Stojkovic (Nagoya Grampus Eight), Stankovic (Red Star Belgrade), Jugovic (Lazio); Kovacevic (Real Sociedad), Mijatovic (Real Madrid). Substitutes: Ognjenovic (Red Star Belgrade) for Kovacevic, 58; Govedarica (Lecce) for Stankovic, 68; Stevic (1860 Munich) for Petrovic, 74.
Referee: K M Nielsen (Denmark).