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Germany Striking in Rout of Russia

Its impressive 7-1 victory in quarterfinal sets up semifinal match against the United States, the other dominant player in the World Cup.

October 03, 2003|Randy Harvey | Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. — Officials from FIFA, the international soccer federation, arranged the pairings of the Women's World Cup so that it would be possible for the United States to meet China in the championship game, a rematch of the dramatic 1999 final.

It's too bad they couldn't have seen into the future and arranged for the United States to meet Germany on Oct. 12 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, because it appears now that would have been the best final.

Instead, the United States and Germany will meet in the semifinals here at PGE Park on Sunday, in a game that, based on their play in the tournament so far, will probably determine the champion.

They have been by far the most impressive teams through the quarterfinals. If its 7-1 victory over Russia on Thursday night at PGE Park is an indication, Germany has been the most impressive team. The United States won its quarterfinal match, 1-0, on Wednesday night in Foxboro, Mass., over Norway.

The Germans have won their four games by a combined score of 20-2. The United States has scored 12 goals and allowed one in its four victories.

But the Germans emphasize that their competition has been easier.

"I think we've had an easy -- easy is maybe the wrong word -- but we were lucky to be in the group with Japan and Argentina," German Coach Tina Theune-Meyer said, adding that only Canada challenged her team in Group C.

"Today, the Russian team was not at the highest level."

That was an understatement. Germany's victory was the most lopsided in a quarterfinal since the United States beat Taiwan, 7-0, in the first Women's World Cup in 1991.

The Russians seemed to know they had little chance, perhaps because their record against the Germans before the game was 0-8-2. Russia's only hope was to play negatively, forming a bunker in front of its goal and hoping that the Germans would leave themselves open to a counterattack.

It didn't work. The Russians didn't have a shot on goal until the 68th minute, though their defense did frustrate the Germans well into the second half.

Theune-Meyer made a crucial adjustment in the first half, opening space in front of the goal by spreading her forwards. Martina Mueller, who was in the center, scored almost immediately, in the 25th minute, after a through pass from midfielder Maren Meinert, who showed why she was the most valuable player in the WUSA while playing for Boston.

The Germans didn't score again until Sandra Minnert's goal in the 57th minute, and Russia no longer could play defensively.

"During the second half, we tried to play open football with the German team," Russian Coach Yuri Bystritsky said. "This is the first time we've ever allowed ourselves to play like that against them."

It wasn't a good idea.

The Germans scored two more goals within five minutes, Kerstin Garefrekes finding the net after a corner kick for a 4-0 lead.

Russia finally scored in the 70th minute, eliciting laughter from its bench. On their bench, meantime, the Germans were stoned-faced.

The tournament's leading scorer, forward Birgit Prinz, was at her best from that point on, scoring twice and assisting on another goal with a brilliant back pass. She has six goals in four games.

She was named player of the game but that didn't make her happy. "I thought I missed too many chances," she said.

The Germans said they are looking forward to playing the United States, to see whether they are ready to overtake the Americans. Germany led the United States twice when they met in the quarterfinals in 1999 before losing, 3-2.

"I think we have a good team," Prinz said. "But I don't know how good our opponents have been up to now. We don't know how good we are. The Americans know they can beat everybody."

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