Neuville’s late score gives Germany dramatic 1-0 victory
DORTMUND, Germany ” The game had ended long before and a thunderstorm was breaking out, yet die-hard German fans were still at the stadium, singing the chant now heard across the country.
“Berlin, Berlin, we are going to Berlin,” they sang, referring to the site of the July 9 World Cup final.
Germany is not there yet, and the final is still far away. But the host nation took a major step toward at least the second round by edging Poland 1-0 on Wednesday.
It took some doing.
Shot after shot was turned away by Poland’s goalkeeper and the crossbar. Germany kept firing and got the payoff just in time ” injury time. Substitute Oliver Neuville scored on a sliding kick off a brilliant cross from another sub, David Odonkor.
“It was a bit lucky, but it was more than deserved,” Neuville said. “I should have scored even before.”
Odonkor broke free on the right wing and his perfect pass was booted home by Neuville. The German players mobbed Neuville as the crowd, previously frustrated at seeing their heroes thwarted, erupted in cheers.
“I can’t describe my feelings,” said Odonkor, a rookie on the German team who plays for Borussia Dortmund. “When I got the ball, I looked up and crossed, but I didn’t see whether a striker was there or not.”
The hosts, with a man advantage for the final 15 minutes, controlled the action only to be frustrated by Artur Boruc, who made a handful of spectacular saves.
Poland’s Radoslaw Sobolewski was sent off in the 75th minute with his second yellow card after tripping Germany striker Miroslav Klose. The Germans pressed, but Boruc was impenetrable.
So was the crossbar, which was hit by Klose with a header and Michael Ballack with a kick in the 90th minute.
“We had enough chances,” Klose said.
Saudi Arabia 2, Tunisia 2
MUNICH, Germany ” With a sudden burst, Saudi Arabia was on the verge of erasing recent World Cup embarrassment. Then Tunisia spoiled the Saudi’s celebrations in the final seconds Wednesday.
Rahdi Jaidi’s powerful header in injury time gave Tunisia a 2-2 tie with Saudi Arabia in the only all-Arab match of the tournament. Just a few minutes earlier, in the 84th, Sami al-Jaber gave the Saudis a lead.
Al-Jaber, who retired from the national team, then was brought back for qualifying, had entered the game moments before. He has played in four World Cups and now has scored in three after finishing off a 2-on-1 break. It was his first touch of the game.
Saudi Arabia coach Marcos Paqueta had left al-Jaber on the bench because the veteran was struggling with a thigh problem. But the 34-year-old showed his class at the first opportunity.
Tunisia pressed for the tie and got it on Jaidi’s header from 6 yards off a feed from the end line by Ziad Jaziri, who scored earlier.
Four years after an 8-0 humiliation against Germany in their opening game, goals from Yasser al-Qahtani and the veteran al-Jaber put the Saudis in position for a victory ” and a bonus of $27,000 per player.
Then Tunisia struck for the tie. Jaidi, a hulking defender, pushed up and was unmarked in front of the middle of the goal to head in Jaziri’s pinpoint pass.
Each team has one point, behind Group H favorite Spain, which routed Ukraine 4-0 earlier Wednesday.
Spain 4, Ukraine 0
LEIPZIG, Germany ” If Spain wants to lose its reputation as a World Cup underachiever, it’s off to a powerful start.
Spain routed struggling newcomer Ukraine 4-0 Wednesday, a sizzling start in search of a title after 11 futile, often disheartening attempts. David Villa scored twice and Fernando Torres capped the romp with a sensational goal off a series of passes.
As famous for its international flops as the finesse and flair of its game, Spain appears on the right track this time. It is on a 23-match unbeaten streak, all under coach Luis Aragones ” a nice change for the nation whose checkered international soccer history has been one of perpetual disappointment.
While the Spaniards are making their eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, they have failed to reach the semifinals since posting their best result, a fourth-place finish in 1950.
“Historically speaking it is correct we have never achieved at great tournaments, but if all together we show what we can do I know we can be among the top teams at this tournament,” Aragones said. “At first I thought it was going to be more complicated, but the second goal made Ukraine more crestfallen and the rest was easier.”
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