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U.S. in perfect shape for Germans, says Arena

© Reuters 2002

By Samuel Len

SEOUL, June 20 (Reuters) - U.S. coach Bruce Arena said on Thursday that his team were in top shape for their quarter-final showdown with Germany, despite having had fewer days to rest and practice than their opponents.

The United States have already topped most people's expectations, but now have the opportunity to reach undreamed of heights by claiming the scalp of the most consistent country in World Cup history. Germany, however, go into Friday's game in Ulsan better shape than they have been for several years. "I think this is a perfect rhythm," Arena told a news conference.

The United States played their last game was on Monday, a tough physical encounter when the U.S. defeated Mexico 2-0 in Chonju, South Korea. Germany's last game was on Saturday where they beat Paraguay 1-0 in Sogwipo, also in South Korea.

"I think too much time off is a problem," he said. The U.S. coach, who has far surpassed his modest goal of rebuilding U.S. soccer from a disastrous 32nd-out-of-32 showing at the 1998 World Cup, said his players would be relaxed mentally and aggressive physically against a taller German squad.

"I think all the pressure's on the Germans," Arena said. "They're the ones who have got to win." The U.S. coach acknowledged the height advantage of the Germans, but said the game would be decided by tactics and mindset.

"Does it pose problems? Yes," Arena said when asked about the height differences. "That's part of the challenge of the game," he said. "We need to be aggressive, we need to be quick and aloof."

While many of their major rivals have gone tumbling out in the early rounds of this tournament, Germany have had a relatively smooth passage into the last eight for the 14th time in the 15 finals tournaments they have played in.

The Americans' only previous venture into the latter stages came in 1930 when they reached the semi-finals by playing just two games, and, despite Arena's chilled approach, he and his team are confident they can match that achievement.

"There are just three games before being the best team in the world," said forward Clint Mathis. "There's got to be some incentive there," he said.

"They're a physical team," said Mathis. "You're going to have to deal with that." A spokesman for the U.S. team said defenders Jeff Agoos and Steve Cherundolo are on the injured list, leaving their participation in Friday's match doubtful.

Arena declined to say which players would be in his starting line-up on Friday.

Reports provided by

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Wednesday, 26 June
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Sunday, 23 June
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Saturday, 22 June
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Friday, 21 June
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