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Culture

On the Ball: German Sports Round-up

Soccer stars face France in friendly showdown; tennis star Schüttler scores third win out of four over world number one; golfing pair top World Cup leaderboard.

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Rudi Völler can count the number of victories against top teams in the last three years on one hand.

Germany Looks to End Big Team Curse

With the tickets already booked for the European Championships in Portugal next summer and with just under half of the domestic season gone, Germany’s soccer stars could be forgiven for taking it easy in the friendly against France on Sunday. However, a leisurely game is hardly on the cards as Rudi Völler’s three-time European champions take on the holders.

"Germany against France, that's like no other game. We know we will be measured against this game and that's why we are taking it very seriously," said French coach Jacques Santini ahead of the weekend clash in Gelsenkirchen’s Schalke Arena. And it will take very little to motivate the Germans in a game that could see them put an end to a series of games that have stabbed at the team’s national pride.

Germany has not beaten any of the so-called big teams in the past three years, not since they beat England by a single goal in London in 2000. Since that game, they have lost to Sunday’s opponents France (0-1), Argentina (0-1), Brazil (0-2), the Netherlands (1-3), Spain (1-3), Italy (0-1) and England (1-5). In all of these games, Germany looked very much like second best. "We have to win finally against a big team so that we can go to Portugal with confidence," said midfielder Jens Jeremies.

Germany will be without several injured players, including the talented Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Deisler. But central defender Jens Nowotny makes a comeback after a 19-month absence and two knee operations. France will be without captain Marcel Desailly of Chelsea and Patrick Vieira of Arsenal.

Schüttler Upsets World No.1 Roddick

Rainer Schuettler Tennis Australian Open Melbourne

Rainer Schüttler.

Rainer Schüttler, the current holder of Germany’s “tennis sensation” mantle, continued his winning ways with a three-set victory over world number one Andy Roddick in Thursday's round-robin action at the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston.

The Australian Open runner-up dropped the first set against the American before charging back for a 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 victory on the hard-court at the Westside Tennis Club. It was Roddick’s third defeat to Schüttler in the four meetings between the German and the top seed, all of them coming on clay. Schüttler overcame Roddick in the Australian Open semifinals and also recorded a win in the quarterfinals at a Masters Series event at Indian Wells.

The 27-year-old German has recently lifted championship trophies in Tokyo and Lyon and is an impressive 17-3 over his last 20 matches. He and Wimbledon champion Roger Federer are the only players at the championship with a shot at finishing the week undefeated. Schüttler ends his Red Group round robin stage against Carlos Moya on Friday.

The top two players from each of this week's round robin groups will compete in Saturday's semis, with the winners squaring off in the lucrative final on Sunday for the chance to capture almost €1.3 million ($1.52 million) in prize money.

German Pair Head Golf World Cup Leaderboard

Linde German Masters

Alex Cejka.

Germany's Alex Cejka (picture) and Marcel Siem led the first round of the World Golf Championships World Cup on Thursday with a 5 under 67, a stroke better than Welshmen Ian Woosnam and Bradley Dredge.

Cejka and Siem grabbed the lead in the pairs session with six birdies and just one bogey. They played the first 16 holes in 5-under before finally dropping a stroke at the 17th.

The Czech-born Cejka once shot a 63 at Kiawah Island, so he is no stranger to success here. Siem is winless in two years on the European Tour and has little experience in the United States. "It was great to have a score and see our name up on the leaderboard again," Cejka said.

Twenty-three nations are competing for the first prize of €1.2 million ($1.4 million) in the 50th anniversary event, including current world champions Japan. The timing of the event, however, has prevented some of golf's biggest names from playing, with many involved in other events around the globe.