Germany welcomes World Champions Brazil for a friendly match in Berlin on Wednesday hoping to exact revenge over its World Cup nemesis. Just don't expect any fancy stuff -- not from the Germans anyway.
Just when Oli Kahn's nightmares had subsided, this guy turns up again
World Champions Brazil take on Germany in a friendly game in Berlin on Wednesday. The prestigious match carries little importance to the home side other than it represents a chance to exact revenge on the samba stars who ruined their improbable World Cup dream two years ago by beating them 2-0 in Yokohama in the 2002 final.
Germany as hosts for the 2006 World Cup are automatically installed in the tournament while recent rule changes dictate that reigning World Champions Brazil have to qualify for the right to defend their crown. Brazil will arrive in Germany after beating Bolivia 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Sao Paulo and will view the match as a chance to keep the team’s momentum ahead of more demanding and important clashes in the South American qualifying group.
Kahn prays for the Yokohama pitch to open up in the World Cup final 2002.
For Germany, however, it will be the first opportunity since the World Cup final to regain their pride against Ronaldo and Co. After progressing against the odds to the showpiece finale in Japan, the Germans felt aggrieved that they did not take the chance to claim a famous victory and a fourth World Cup.
But for those expecting a German fairytale ending on Wednesday, the recent words of team captain Michael Ballack may already have dampened the spirits of fans hoping for an exhibition display from the home side.
Ballack forgoes beauty for success
Midfielder Ballack told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Sunday that Germany do not need to play a "beautiful game" to succeed and should focus instead on developing a winning mentality. "One doesn't have to play beautiful football. Success is what counts."
Someone may want to remind Ballack that the current Germany team has lacked both beauty and success of late. Germany have not beaten a major soccer power in their last nine matches and were dumped out of the recent European Championships after the first round. The last time the Germans beat a top-level side was October 7, 2000 when they secured a 1-0 victory over England. After that, they lost 1-0 to France, 5-1 to England and 1-0 to Argentina in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup.
Ballack scores past South Korean goalkeeper Lee Woon Jae during the 2002 World Cup semi-final.
Then in Japan/Korea, Germany beat Paraguay, the United States and South Korea before losing in the final. Since then, they have gone down 3-1 to the Netherlands, 3-1 to Spain, 1-0 to Italy and 3-0 to France. They then drew 1-1 against the Netherlands at Euro 2004. A victory over Brazil may not be impossible but the statistics suggest a win would be unlikely, an attractive one even less so.
Brazil buzzing with invention
In contrast, the Brazilians arrive in Berlin this week on the back of a splendid display of inspirational soccer against Bolivia and bring with them a restored reputation as the Harlem Globetrotters of the international game.
Real Madrid striker and Germany’s World Cup final nemesis Ronaldo had promised fans a gala in Sao Paulo. And Brazil did not fail to deliver. Ronaldo himself opened the scoring with a blistering volley before the game was even a minute old. The game then turned into an exhibition of art-soccer when Ronaldinho fired a 12th minute penalty into the lower left corner for a 2-0 lead. And just before half-time, Copa America hero Adriano leaped above the Bolivian backline to head in a cross from Ronaldinho to make it 3-0.
"It was a good result and an excellent performance," said Ronaldo at the post-match press conference. "We have every reason to be happy. It was marvelous. We played excellent soccer and we're the leaders of the group." The win puts Brazil ahead of Argentina in the group and their World Cup campaign in motion.
Despite the feel-good factor running through the Brazilian team after Sunday’s win, there will be a cloud hanging over the samba stars when they arrive in Germany.
Club restrictions lead to player ban
Some of Brazil's most exciting and established players will not be on view in Berlin on Wednesday. The five players who did not play in Brazil's friendly international in Haiti on the August 18 were left out of the Bolivia game and will also be excluded for the Germany clash. AC Milan players Cafu, Kaka and Dida, along with Bayer Leverkusen's Lucio (photo) and Ze Roberto have been punished by the Brazilian football federation (CBF) for not appearing in Brazil's 6-0 victory at Port-au-Prince. The stars were absent after not being released by their clubs for the Haiti game.
Ronaldo has been quoted as supporting the decision, saying that the CBF wanted to preserve the honor of those who wear Brazil's green and yellow colors. However, Ronaldo's team mate in the Spanish capital, fellow galactico Roberto Carlos, was not of the same opinion, saying: "The federations and the clubs have to work together." The Brazil captain added the five excluded players would have loved to be playing for Brazil.
There is a feeling that the situation may stoke the fires of a simmering club-versus-country row with the affected players unhappy at their own clubs insistence that they remain with the domestic squad when Brazil has issued call-ups.