Originally created 06/19/02

Germans not underestimating U.S. team



SEOGWIPO, South Korea -- The Germans are well aware of the best the U.S. team has to offer, and they aren't about to underestimate one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup.

German coach Rudi Voeller used to wear the same uniform as American captain Claudio Reyna when the two played for Bayer Leverkusen in the mid-1990s. They'll meet again when the U.S. team plays the three-time champions in the quarterfinals.

"He's a great player and a great guy, but all sympathies will have to cease Friday," Voeller said.

Voeller also coached Landon Donovan on that same German club team when the 20-year-old American striker was trying to make his mark in one of the world's top leagues.

"He was very young, but even then it was clear that he would have a great career ahead of him," Voeller said.

Donovan never got to play a game in two seasons, but Voeller is certain that Leverkusen, which still holds Donovan's transfer rights, will recall him from Major League Soccer after the World Cup.

Reyna and Donovan notwithstanding, Voeller believes his team has the edge over the Americans and will reach the semifinals.

The optimism is shared by his players, although no one seems to be taking the U.S. team too lightly.

"We already saw in Rostock what they are capable of doing," Voeller said, referring to a March exhibition game between the teams in Germany.

The Germans fell behind but equalized shortly before halftime and rolled on to a 4-2 victory.

"We will have to raise our game, we know that," the coach said.

Four years ago, the Americans were tentative during a 2-0 first-round loss to the Germans in Paris, the first of three straight losses for the U.S. team at that World Cup. The American players say that won't happen again.

"We can't give them as much respect as we did then," Reyna said Tuesday, a day after the Americans defeated Mexico 2-0 in the second round. "The difference is that in a knockout game, you have to be cautious and also go for it."

Just after the start of the game at Parc des Princes in 1998, Germany midfielder Jens Jeremies kneed Reyna in the back during a throw-in. Reyna wasn't a factor for the rest of the night.

"For about 25 minutes in that game, my back tightened up," Reyna recalled. "It was a pretty hard challenge and I remember it. But it's over. He's a hard player and that's the way he plays."

The Americans regard Germany as a tougher foe than the Mexicans, whom they have beaten with some regularity and are familiar with from gritty World Cup qualifiers. They respect the Germans' athletic ability, their relentless physical play and their professionalism.

"Germany's the type of team, even when they don't play well, they've been able to get results," Reyna said. "We definitely have to be more aggressive, not necessarily in attacking, but in defending, be all over them."

The Germans, champions in 1954, '74 and '90, reached the quarterfinals in the two previous World Cups. They thought they were facing easy opposition but were eliminated by Bulgaria in 1994 and by Croatia in 1998.

"We won't let it happen again," said Jeremies, who predicted his team will go to the final. "We believe in our chance. If we play our best, we'll beat them."

Goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn also believes Germany will go to the final.

"I am convinced that we can make many things possible at this World Cup," he said. "We have to be careful not to make the same mistake as in 1994 and 1998, but I'm sure we can advance.

"They will be a very unpleasant rival. They fight a lot, like us, and they are very patriotic guys who give everything for their country. We have to be very careful." Notes: FIFA gave Germany permission to wear black armbands in remembrance of Fritz Walter, the captain of West Germany's 1954 championship team, who died Monday at age 81. ... U.S. forward Joe-Max Moore, sidelined by a strained right hamstring, is 50-50 for the rest of the tournament. ... U.S. players have earned bonuses of $188,043, plus $2,500 for each game appearance. The amount would increase to $264,130 plus the appearance bonuses with a win over Germany.