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Culture

Völler Lambastes German Soccer Critics

Germany’s national team barely managed to draw with soccer minnows Iceland in an important European Championship qualifying match on Saturday. Afterwards, coach Rudi Völler attacked journalists for expecting more.

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Germany's normally calm coach Völler was highly irate after a 0-0 draw with Iceland.

Since managing to become World Cup runners-up last year, Germany’s national soccer (or football, if you prefer) team has slid into a crisis of mediocrity. Numerous injuries, a dearth of creative play and most of all a glaring lack of goals have all conspired to bring the once mighty football nation to its knees in just over a year’s time.

Despite being in a fairly easy qualifying group for the 2004 European Championships with Scotland, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, Germany has struggled to book a berth for the finals in Portugal next summer.

Saturday’s match against Iceland in Reykjavik showed the Germans in their by now to be expected uninspired form. After managing a scoreless draw with Iceland’s team of unspectacular yet motivated players, most commentators said Germany was lucky to have avoided an embarrassing loss.

But after the match German national coach Rudi Völler was so upset by criticism from ARD television sport commentators Gerhard Delling and Günter Netzer that he launched into a tirade attacking their unrealistically high expectations.

“That’s complete rubbish what Delling said. After every match that we don’t score a goal it’s a new even lower low point,” complained Völler. “I just can’t hear this crap anymore!”

No more Mr. Nice Guy

Völler, who took over as national coach three years ago, then went on to lambaste armchair critics throughout Germany, saying he was tired of keeping quiet as people unfairly judged his team from “upon high.”

Völler’s outburst surprised many, since the well-liked former star national striker has largely been spared criticism himself despite the team’s troubles. “Rudi Flips Out!” read the headline of Germany’s Bild am Sonntag tabloid newspaper in response to the normally mild-mannered Völler’s vitriol. But Völler said he was no longer prepared to remain as quiet as his predecessors Erich Ribbeck and Berti Vogts had in the past.

“I have to defend myself and the team against those who are dragging us into the mud. The performance today was not in order. But we didn't lose. We were fortunate to come away with a draw,” he said.

Germany still can still easily qualify for next year’s European Championships with home wins against Scotland next Wednesday and Iceland in October, but after the team’s performance in Reykjavik nothing is being taken for granted.

Michael Ballack

Michael Ballack

“We control our own destiny,” said German midfielder Michael Ballack. “We know we have to play better soccer.”

Without a marked improvement there will be little way to stop many German soccer fans from not asking themselves how the 2002 World Cup runners-up could play so poorly, but rather how the consistently mediocre national team ever managed to make to the World Cup finals in the first place.

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