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German Star Feels Right at Home

Meinert initially didn't want to play in the World Cup, but the most valuable player of WUSA is glad she changed her mind. Tonight, she leads her team against Russia.

October 02, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. — Germany Coach Tina Theune-Meyer may have excellent powers of persuasion, but she distributed the credit globally, believing she had some help in convincing Maren Meinert to come out of international retirement.

Assist, United States.

"It was the whole of America," Theune-Meyer said Monday. "Everyone kept saying, 'Why don't you play? You are the best player.' "

American soccer fans had problems understanding the concept of sitting out.

How could the most valuable player in the Women's United Soccer Assn. be out, by choice, of the Women's World Cup? It didn't make sense, especially because Meinert, of the Boston Breakers, was playing the best soccer of her life, at age 30, no less.

Meinert didn't totally agree with the coach giving away the credit.

"Not America, she did, I think," Meinert said. "I had to talk to my husband.

"He was in Germany. I can't make a decision without him. We talked about it. I wanted to spend time at home and it's always a tough decision."

Regardless, Meinert's decision to play has been Germany's gain. Germany's explosive dominance has been one of the early story lines of the World Cup. Meinert has been stellar, as expected, with strike partner Birgit Prinz. Meinert has two goals and four assists, and Prinz has four goals.

Meinert and Prinz will lead Germany against Russia today in the quarterfinals at PGE Park, followed by China versus Canada. Germany has never lost to Russia, winning eight times and tying twice.

Though Germany has scored 13 goals and allowed two in three games, Theune-Meyer spoke about the group's lack of depth, saying: "We didn't play against the strongest teams."

There is no denying the quality of Prinz and Meinert's form.

Jurgen Klinsmann, former German star, told "Birgit Prinz and Maren Meinert are the best front two at this World Cup."

One of the few clouds on the German horizon is the absence of experienced defender Steffi Jones. Jones, 30, tore a ligament in her right knee in the last game against Argentina and will require surgery.

"It's always tough to lose a player like Steffi," Meinert said. "You can always lose a player to injury."

But Theune-Meyer said the players received a big psychological boost when Jones addressed the team, telling them they would make the World Cup final.

"They made it yesterday," she said, of getting over the loss. "When Steffi Jones came back from the hospital, she said, 'You will be fine and I will be back [to watch] the final.' "

One of the potential obstacles, of course, could be the United States.

Germany was eliminated by the U.S. in the quarterfinals four years ago, despite twice leading, eventually losing, 3-2.

The Germans have been fielding many more questions about the Americans than the Russians.

"It is on our mind because everybody keeps asking us," Meinert said, chuckling. "We know we have to play our quarterfinals."

Said Theune-Meyer: "We've scored a lot of goals and we have a good sense of spirit in this team. We have to move on like we did before."

In the last quarterfinal, China will face Canada. Canada is making its first appearance in the World Cup quarterfinals, and needed a victory over Japan in the final game of group play to qualify. China has lacked finishing ability, scoring three goals in three games, and missing numerous chances in the Group D finale against Russia.

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