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Culture

Jeering Fans Send Germany off to Portugal

Germany lost 0-2 to Hungary on Sunday in their last preparation match before Euro 2004 begins in Portugal this weekend. It was an embarrassing farewell to home soil for the team which leaves for the finals on Wednesday.

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Down but not out -- yet.

Germany's fans left the stadium in Kaiserslautern on Sunday sporting long, miserable faces. Their team had just lost its final preparation match for the European Championships 0-2 against Hungary.

In other circumstances, the solemnity could have been explained as a reaction to a beloved's farewell as the German team waved goodbye and headed on its imminent Portuguese adventure. But if some fans were mourning the departure of their heroes, it was wasted emotion. If the Germans play like this in Portugal, it won't be long before they're back home again.

In a match that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1954 World Cup final played between these sides, a match the unfancied Germans won 3-2 in Switzerland, the current German side never looked like they could emulate the "Miracle of Bern" against a Hungarian team rumoured to made up of fringe players and the walking wounded.

Coached by German legend Lothar Matthäus, the man who captained his nation to World Cup glory in 1990 and eventually set a record for international appearances for Germany, Hungary looked far from a makeshift side.

From the first whistle, Germany's defenders were thrown into confusion and disarray as Hungarian striker Sandor Torghelle proved to be a handful for the home side.

German defense in disarray

Oliver Kahn nach dem 0:1 Deutschland gegen Italien, 20.08.2003

Oliver Kahn was once again on the losing side.

The pressure looked to be paying off as early as the first minute when the German defenders Andreas Hinkel and Jens Nowotny attempted to play the offside trap only for Torghelle to race between them and bear down on the Oliver Kahn's goal. Only the German captain's leg stopped the Hungarians going ahead with barely a minute on the clock.

Germany were soon under the cosh again as the Hungarians continued to swarm forward, buoyed by their early flourish. Torghelle once again capitalized on the dithering in defense to swivel past Christian Worns and put the guests ahead after seven minutes with already his third shot on goal.

Early lessons go unheeded

Possibly fired with the flames of revenge which still burn from that World Cup final half a century ago, the Hungarians refused to let up and swarmed over the Germans as they grabbed control of the match. Hungary's hold tightened just after the half hour when Torghelle again inflicted the damage, finishing off a lightning fast counter-attack to put the visitors further ahead on 31 minutes.

MKK Budapest's Torghelle almost increased Hungary's lead on 56 minutes, this time as provider, but his team mate Zoltan Gera was unable to reproduce his fellow striker's clinical shooting in front of goal and sliced his shot wide.

Völler ist nicht zufrieden, Deutschland gegen Frankreich 0:3

Germany's coach Rudi Völler tries to bring order to the chaos.

While Germany fought back strongly in the latter stages of the second half, it was not enough to prise control away from Hungary who looked assured and never in danger of letting a two-goal lead slip. Despite a competent midfield, Germany offered little ahead of them and any invention attempted by Michael Ballack and Bernd Schneider was stifled by a sea of red shirts in the final third of the pitch.

Chances go begging for home side

Germany did have chances to cut the deficit. Early in the second half Schneider fired in a low cross that Fredi Bobic nearly diverted into the Hungary goal with a cheeky back heel that went inches wide.

The three-times World and European champions almost halved Hungary's lead through a Ballack header on 53 minutes but were denied by just one of a string a great saves from Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly.

Philipp Lahm also provided opportunities for his team mates but his final ball into the box often lacked precision and Brdaric was twice unable to connect with the young Stuttgart player's crosses.

Improvements needed -- and fast

In the end, it was all in vain. The fans jeered the German players from the pitch, a sound that could well be ringing around the stadium in Porto on June 15 after Germany's first test of the European Championships against the Netherlands unless things radically improve.

The 7-0 victory over Malta last week now appears to have been an anomaly. Germany prepares for Euro 2004 with increasing evidence justifying doubts over the team's quality. The fans and critics will now hang onto their hopes that Germany will once again prove everyone wrong in the context of real competition and that the "tournament mentality" will eventually win through.

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