JEONJU, South Korea — The United States will meet Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal Friday at Ulsan, a prospect that excites Americans considerably more than Germans.
In Germany, where World Cup quarterfinal appearances are regarded a birth right, qualification for final eight in 2002 was greeted by little enthusiasm from the media.
"Germany totters into the quarterfinals," was the headline Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung ran after Germany's lackluster 1-0 victory over Paraguay in the second round.
The soccer magazine Kicker described Germany's triumph as "fortunate but not undeserved.... The German team lacked someone with ideas in midfield. The only one with any creativity was Bernd Schneider, but even he couldn't give [Coach Rudi] Voller's men any direction."
And the Munich magazine Focus dismissed Germany and Paraguay as "two technically limited teams" and chided Germany for its "big failing--not being able to control a match."
After scoring eight goals against Saudi Arabia, tying Ireland and frustrating a talented Cameroon squad with defense and quick counterattacks, Germany backslid against Paraguay--missing several scoring opportunities and seemingly headed for overtime at 0-0 before Oliver Neuville's 88th-minute strike spared Germany the virtual certainty of a penalty shootout.
Unsightly as it was, the victory over Paraguay clinched Germany a spot in the quarterfinals for the 11th time in 12 World Cups--dating to 1954, which culminated in the first of Germany's three World Cup titles.
Voller, a high-scoring forward on the 1990 champion, believes that record ought to count for something, prompting him to lash out at the "over-the-top" German media.
"What has been written, in particular in the international press, was not always fair," Voller said. "The expectations we had coming here and the fact that we had three players suspended should have been taken into consideration."
Germany played Paraguay without defender Carsten Ramelow and midfielders Dietmar Hamann and Christian Ziege, all forced to sit out because of suspensions.
"You can't realign things at the drop of a hat when you're without three players," Voller said.
Germany has advanced with its customary assets: methodically attentive defense, a quality goalkeeper in Oliver Kahn and a slashing, go-to striker, Miroslav Klose, who is tied with Brazil's Ronaldo with five goals to lead all scorers in this tournament.
"We've got to be extremely careful not to be knocked out like we were in 1994 and 1998," Kahn said, referring to Germany's quarterfinal defeats in the last two World Cups.
To that end, Voller went out of his way to praise the United States.
"No one expected the USA to get this far, and they're really on a roll," Voller said. "Their confidence is going to be high."
Up to a point. U.S. Coach Bruce Arena said that Germany "will be an overwhelming favorite" against his team at Ulsan.
"And they should beat us, by the way," he said. "They're supposed to beat us. We're going to go out and have a little fun."