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Culture

German Soccer Humiliated in Bucharest

It could hardly have been a worse preparation for the upcoming European Championships. Rudi Völler took his Euro 2004 hopefuls to Romania on Wednesday and saw his team lose 5-1.

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The Germans start to lose count as the Romanians run riot.

A host of Euro 2004 nations took to soccer fields all over the globe in a night of international friendly matches on Wednesday as a number of teams looking forward to competing for the championship in Portugal this summer continued their preparation. For Germany, however, it was a night of ill omens as the World Cup runners-up crashed to their biggest away defeat for 65 years as a young and inexperienced Romania team tore them to ribbons in Bucharest.

There could be no question that Romania's 5-1 defeat of the Germans was the most spectacular result of the night. Romania, which failed to qualify for this summer's tournament, stunned Germany with a four goal rout in the first half. That precipitated goalkeeper Oliver Kahn's substitution at half-time and set up the former soccer superpower's most humiliating night for over two years.

It was Germany's worst defeat since they also lost 5-1 at home to England in a World Cup qualifier in September 2001. Germany's biggest losses were 6-0 against Austria in 1931 and 8-3 by Hungary at the 1954 World Cup.

Völler expected "a bit of disorder"

Länderspiel Deutschland gegen Rumänien Rudi Völler

Germany's coach Rudi Völler

"I felt worse after the loss to England, but it still hurts," a rueful Völler said after the game. "There is no excuse, although we'll probably never play again with this line-up."

"I expected a bit of a disorder in the back, but we made errors that made us look like amateurs. But we'll put it behind us, just like we put the England defeat behind us and went on to play a good World Cup," the coach said. "All we can do for the first half is apologize to everyone."

Injury-hit side provides no excuses

Germany was without several leading players on Wednesday night, including Michael Ballack, who pulled out just before kick-off with a calf injury. But coach Völler still had the luxury of fielding a number of seasoned internationals such as Kahn, Jens Jeremies, Carsten Ramelow and Dietmar Hamann.

It was only Romania's second victory over Germany in 12 matches, and they started building the win early in the game. After Germany's Kevin Kuranyi had squandered what turned out to be his country's only chance of the first half on 13 minutes, the Romanians began to assert themselves.

Victory built from early pressure

Fussball Rumänien gegen Deutschland

Mihaita Plesan put Romania ahead 21 minutes into the match after he intercepted a bad pass from German midfielder Fabian Ernst and charged alone through the gaping defense to drive the ball past Kahn into the roof of the net. The Romanians extended their lead two minutes later when Razvan Rat beat a German offside trap down the left flank, charged past Arne Friedrich into the unguarded penalty area and chipped the ball over an advancing Kahn.

Ionel Danciulescu made his first goal after 35 minutes, getting the benefit of the doubt from the linesman when others may have flagged for offside. The Dinamo Bucharest striker was first to the ball as a cross from Ovidiu Petre evaded the shell-shocked German defenders, leaving Danciulescu to poke the ball past the advancing goalkeeper. With two minutes left in the first half, Danciulescu struck again, this time heading in unchallenged after a long cross by Flavius Stoican.

Oliver Kahn was replaced during the interval by Stuttgart goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand, who had flown to Bucharest aboard a chartered aircraft shortly before the match. Despite taking his place on the bench to watch the second half, the German captain had nowhere to hide after shipping four goals.

Kahn faces the music

Kahn am Boden

Oliver Kahn

"There is no excuse at all for this," said Kahn. "We let ourselves be slaughtered. It was humiliating. It is a shame and a bitter setback. I am lost for words."

Hildebrand had to wait considerably longer than Kahn had before he too was picking the ball out of the German net as Romania took their foot off the gas in the second half and saved Germany even greater embarrassment.

After a couple of near misses where Nicolae Dica narrowly failed to connect with a low pass at the far post on 56 minutes and then hit the post six minutes later, substitute Gabriel Caramarin made it 5-0 in the 84th. Germany managed a consolation goal with three minutes to play but even that was a slice of luck. A deflected shot left defender Phillip Lahm with an easy task to deny Romanian keeper Bogdan Lobont a clean sheet.

Tournament expectations take a dive

This was Germany's fourth preparation match for Euro 2004. The Germans capitulated to the holders France in the 3-0 defeat in Gelsenkirchen before beating Croatia 2-1 and Belgium 3-0.

With forty-five days to go before the first match of the 2004 European Championships in Portugal, Wednesday's collapse was hardly a performance that would have instilled confidence in a team that had already limped its way through qualification for that tournament. Germany has a tough group in Euro 2004, where they face former champions from the Czech Republic and the Netherlands and outsiders Latvia.

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