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Neuville Rescues Germany, 1-0

Round of 16: Goal in 88th minute beats Paraguay for spot in quarterfinals.

June 16, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

No matter whether the United States or Mexico wins Monday's showdown in Jeonju, South Korea, both teams now know who the winner will face in the quarterfinals Friday--three-time world champion Germany.

Coach Rudi Voeller's team made hard work of defeating Paraguay on Saturday, but a late goal by Oliver Neuville gave it a 1-0 victory before 25,176 at Jeju World Cup Stadium at Seogwipo, South Korea.

"We deserved to win," Voeller said, adding that he was not at all pleased with the team's dreary performance in the first 45 minutes.

"I was a bit annoyed at halftime because we were playing exactly the opposite of the game we had planned, at times blindly kicking the ball forward," he said.

There was nothing unsightly about Neuville's 88th-minute strike, however. The 29-year-old Bayer Leverkusen forward spun around to volley Bernd Schneider's cross from the right past goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert from six yards to seal the South Americans' fate.

"Now I think everything is possible," Neuville said. "We have proven once again that we are able to score when we need to. That will give us a lot of self-confidence for the rest of the tournament."

After watching his team come within minutes of forcing overtime and perhaps reaching the quarterfinals, Paraguay Coach Cesare Maldini announced his retirement. He was philosophical about the defeat.

"Most of the game took place in midfield and suddenly there was a beautiful run on the right [by Schneider] and a beautiful goal by Neuville," he said. The 70-year-old former Italy national team coach will return to AC Milan as a scout.

Chilavert said the match might have gone either way.

"It was Germany's lucky day today," he said. "We lost but we played well. Germany didn't play better than us. We matched them all the way."

Truth be told, Paraguay did little to trouble goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who had his own odd take on the game when it was all over.

"It would have been a disaster to lose and exit the tournament on my birthday," he said. "It would have been really stupid."

Kahn turned 33 on Saturday.

Voeller said he is not concerned whether Germany plays Mexico or the United States next.

"Both are very good teams and I do not mind who we play," he said. "We came here knowing we're not a team that can put other teams up against the wall."

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