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Steely rather than silky, Germany power on

© Reuters 2002

By Alan Wheatley

SHIZUOKA, Japan, June 11 (Reuters) - Germany went through to the second round of the World Cup on Tuesday with a hard-earned 2-0 victory over Cameroon that said more about the African side's lapses than it did about the three times world champions' prowess.

Solid rather than spectacular, Germany ran out worthy winners in the end thanks to goals from half-time substitute Marco Bode and fellow striker Miroslav Klose, the tournament's leading scorer with five goals. Germany, who played with 10 men for much of the game after defender Carsten Ramelow was sent off in the 40th minute, displayed the same steely resolve that helped them qualify for the finals only after beating Ukraine in the playoffs.

The win will do wonders for a team that few back home expected to improve on their last two World Cups when they were knocked out at the quarter-final stage 3-0 by Croatia in 1998 and 2-1 by Bulgaria in 1994. But Cameroon will look back on the match and know they squandered gilt-edged chances to inflict the same embarrassing early exit on Germany as France suffered earlier in the day.

On a damp night in Shizuoka, Cameroon should have gone ahead as early as the 11th minute when midfielder Salomon Olembe broke through following a mistake by defender Thomas Linke and had only the goalkeeper to beat.

Fortunately for Germany the goalkeeper was Oliver Kahn. The German captain spread his imposing frame and blocked the shot.

Seventeen minutes later it was Cameroon captain Rigobert Song's turn to stake a claim to fame, but he headed wide when it seemed easier to score.

Cameroon coach Wilfried Schaefer thought the turning point in the match was five minutes before halftime when Ramelow, who had already been shown a yellow card, was sent off for tripping Samuel Eto'o as the Cameroon striker bore down on goal.

"I'd have preferred it if he'd stayed on the field and Eto'o had scored," said Schaefer, a former Bundesliga manager who became the first German to lead a foreign team against his home country.

As often happens when a team is down to 10 men, Germany came out for the second half looking stronger. You could sense that Cameroon had blown their chance.

Sure enough, in the 50th minute, Cameroon lost concentration and gave the ball away in midfield. Swooping like a hawk, man-of-the-match Klose fed Bode, who coolly slotted the ball home. Suddenly the make-up of the game was transformed.

Cameroon's confidence crumbled. Their shots became speculative and their passes tentative. Germany's backbone, by contrast, visibly stiffened. Although a man down, they knew they had their opponents on the ropes. Their tackling became crisper and they looked sharper on the break.

"Strangely enough, we started to play good football after we were down to 10. After we opened the scoring Cameroon became nervous and we started to take control," Germany coach Rudi Voeller said. By the end, with Cameroon heads drooping, the margin of victory could have been even greater.

Attacking midfielder Michael Ballack, a player of true class in a mainly workmanlike team, forced a good save from Cameroon keeper Boukar Alioum with a diving header two minutes from time.

By then Cameroon, too, were down to 10 men after Spanish referee Antonio Lopez Nieto sent off substitute Patrick Suffo.

Brandishing cards with the relish of a matador flourishing his cape, Lopez Nieto cautioned 16 players in all, eight on each side, a World Cup finals record in what was never really a dirty game.

Reports provided by

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