FOCUS: GERMANY (Group D)
In football terms, the 1954, 1974 and 1990 World Cup winners need little introduction. Germany also won the European Championships in 1972, 1980 and most recently in 1996 in England. Although their pedigree cannot be denied, the team is currently in a period of transition. The disaster at the Euro 2000 tournament in Belgium and Holland (they did not progress beyond group stage) was largely forgotten when they reached the final of the last World Cup. But the cracks re-appeared during qualification for this competition, when the team only drew against supposed minnows such as Lithuania, Iceland and Scotland. Having still secured first place in Group five, coach Rudi Voeller was then seen to close his eyes as Germany were drawn against Holland and the Czech Republic in the tournament proper.
Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and midfielder Michael Ballack, both of whom are active for Bayern Munich, form the backbone of the squad, which is largely made up of young players lacking experience on the big stage. The new generation should be ready in 2006, when Germany host the World Cup, but it would be no surprise to see them return home early during Euro 2004. Based in the Algarve’s Ria Park Hotel near Almancil, the players will, in all likelihood, have plenty of time to sample the beautiful beaches and golf courses of the region.
A re-united Germany has a population of 82.5 million and the capital has been moved, at great expense, from Bonn back to Berlin. Contrary to popular belief, the Germans are not very hard workers. The number of working hours lost due to sickness are a European record at 1,697 per year – perhaps not surprising in light of the fact that the average German visits his GP 11 times a year! Hours spent in the pub drinking lager have caused a unique type of flea to develop – it only lives in Germany and only under beer mats!Musically speaking, although the Beatles had their start in the northern city of Hamburg, which was also home to Kevin Keegan after his Liverpool days, the terraces are more likely to reverberate to the thumps of um-pa-pa music performed by Lederhosen-clad Bavarians humping steins of Super Bock!
Wales- Waiting for a Miracle
UEFA have turned down Wales’ request to substitute Russia at the Euro 2004 Championship on the grounds of Russian defender Titov failing a drugs test following the first leg play-off game in Moscow. Welsh FA officials had argued that the match should be declared void, giving them an automatic 3-0 win and thus qualification. Titov took no part in the game in question, remaining an unused substitute, and, additionally, UEFA have pointed out that their rules and punishments apply to the player in these cases and not to the team. Nevertheless, Wales feel there is a case to be answered and have lodged an appeal. This will result in a personal hearing in front of the UEFA Committee, which manager Mark Hughes will attend. “UEFA had the opportunity to make a stand against drug-taking in our sport and they have failed to do so”, he reasoned.
The Euro 2004 organising committee has made it known that tickets are still available for the following matches – Denmark v Italy, Sweden v Bulgaria, Czech Republic v Latvia, Croatia v France, Bulgaria v Denmark, Italy v Sweden, Russia v Greece (Algarve) and Italy v Bulgaria. In addition, tickets can still be had for the four quarterfinals at the Luz, Alvalade, Dragão and Algarve stadia. The appropriate internet site should be used to make bookings, which will be processed on a first-come-first serve basis.
Football legend Eusébio was on hand last week to christen a new TAP Airbus 319 named after him. The plane, which will serve European routes, is painted in the Euro 2004 colours and bears the distinctive image of the ‘Pantera Negra’.
A QUESTION OF FOOTBALL
In which country is the African Cup of Nations being held at the moment?
Who is the all-time top goal scorer during the final phase of a World Cup tournament? How many goals did he score?
(Answer next week)