Germany, Denmark win; Ireland ties Cameroon

Posted: Sunday, June 02, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Germany's World Cup team played down its chances, warned against underestimating the opposition, and then trounced Saudi Arabia 8-0.

The rout did not match the shock of Senegal's 1-0 upset of defending champion France one day earlier in the opener of the first World Cup staged in Asia and in two countries.

But Germany's win was the most lopsided victory in the event since Hungary beat El Salvador 10-1 in 1982.

''We have to stay firmly on the ground,'' coach Rudi Voeller said. ''We had a great performance against a weak opponent. But you could see the boys wanted it, everybody took responsibility, they had great spirit.''

Miroslav Klose scored three goals in Sapporo, Japan, as the three-time champion Germans took the top spot in Group E. The group's other two teams, Cameroon and Ireland, tied 1-1 in Niigata, Japan.

Jon Dahl Tomasson scored late in each half as Denmark beat Uruguay 2-1 in Ulsan, South Korea. That left Senegal and Denmark atop Group A, and France and Uruguay at the bottom. The French now have little hope of advancing without victories over both Denmark and Uruguay.

The U.S. team, which doesn't play until Wednesday against Portugal in Suwon, South Korea, got a boost from Senegal's stunner.

''The effort Senegal put forth was enormous,'' defender Gregg Berhalter said. ''They stayed organized and they believed in themselves.''

African champion Cameroon's tie, in which it had to hold off late forays by Ireland, left the continent's teams undefeated against Europeans.

While African runner-up Senegal was celebrating its victory, the French team received some immediate encouragement from the nation's president -- and a bit more Saturday from the team doctor's assessment that key playmaker Zinedine Zidane was recovering from a thigh injury. Zidane could be ready against Uruguay on Thursday, Jean-Marcel Ferret added.

French President Jacques Chirac spoke by telephone with captain Marcel Desailly and coach Roger Lemerre on Friday to encourage them to ''go beyond this failure and mobilize for coming matches.''

The Germans scored four times in each half against the outmanned Saudis, but weren't fooled by their production or the ease of the victory.

''It was an important three points, but we can't overrate it. We have to keep playing just like this,'' said Michael Ballack, who also scored.

For Denmark, a quarterfinalist in the 1998 World Cup, Tomasson scored from 8 yards off Jesper Gronkjaer's pass in the 45th minute, and headed in the winner off the underside of the crossbar seven minutes before the end of regulation.

Uruguay's goal was a long-range, left-footed volley in the 47th minute by Dario Rodriguez that curled above the outstretched arm of Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

''Everybody knows the first game is very important in a World Cup for your confidence, and I think we deserved to win it,'' Denmark coach Morten Olsen said.

Olsen still rated France as the favorite.

''I think they will be very difficult to play against,'' Olsen said.

Ireland fared better than France in coping with the absence of its star playmaker, Roy Keane, who was kicked off the team after a tirade against coach Mick McCarthy in training camp.

After Cameroon's Patrick Mboma scored in the 39th minute, Ireland's Matt Holland tied it in the 52nd. He pounced on a poor clear by defender Raymond Kalla, scoring on a 25-yard kick.

In a long-awaited decision on the starting central striker, Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa chose Gabriel Batistuta over Hernan Crespo.

''I compared the form of the players available and decided that for this game I would play those closest to their best possible condition,'' Bielsa said Saturday.

That meant Batistuta, Argentina's most prolific scorer with 55 goals in 75 games -- even though he is coming off a poor season in Italy and has been plagued by injuries.

Crespo's scoring helped propel Argentina through World Cup qualifying. Bielsa said he expected Crespo and others to play their part at some stage of the tournament.

''I am optimistic because I believe in my players,'' he said. ''Their abilities have been proven. Also, I'm a born optimist.''

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