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Germans finally get past Poland

By Wire services
Published June 15, 2006

DORTMUND, Germany - The game had ended long before, and a thunderstorm was breaking out. Yet die-hard German fans were still at the stadium, singing the chant now heard across the country.

"Berlin, Berlin, we are going to Berlin," they sang, referring to the site of the July9 final.

Germany is not there yet, and the final is still far away. But the host nation took a major step toward it by edging Poland 1-0 on Wednesday.

It was Germany's first victory over a European team at a major event since it won the Euro '96 final over the Czech Republic. And it all but guaranteed a second-round berth.

But it took some doing.

Shot after shot was turned away by Poland's goalkeeper and the crossbar. Germany kept shooting. And they finally scored in injury time on substitute Oliver Neuville's sliding touch off a low cross from another sub, David Odonkor.

"It was a bit lucky, but it was more than deserved," Neuville said. "I should have scored even before."

The German players mobbed Neuville as the crowd, previously frustrated at seeing its team thwarted, erupted in cheers.

"I can't describe my feelings," Odonkor said. "When I got the ball, I looked up and crossed. But I didn't see whether a striker was there or not."

Poland's Radoslaw Sobolewski was ejected in the 75th minute for his second yellow card. The Germans pressed, but keeper Artur Boruc made some spectacular saves.

He got help from the crossbar, which was hit by Miroslav Klose with a header and Michael Ballack with a kick in the 90th minute.

"We had enough chances," Klose said.

And one finally paid off.

Polish coach Pawel Janas thanked his players for their "fight."

"Unfortunately," he said, "we still can't score goals."

Spain 4, Ukraine 0

David Villa scored twice for Spain in Leipzig for the biggest margin of victory so far. Spain dominated from the start, outshooting Ukraine 19-5. "If we show what we can do, I know we can be among the top teams at this tournament," said Spanish coach Luis Aragones, whose team has a 23-game unbeaten streak. "At first, I thought it was going to be more complicated. But the second goal made Ukraine more crestfallen, and the rest was easier."

Xabi Alonso scored in the 13th minute with a header off a corner kick by Xavi Hernandez. Villa made it 2-0 four minutes later with a free kick that deflected off the Ukrainian wall.

The kick came as a result of Andriy Rusol's late challenge of Fernando Torres that drew a yellow card. Villa scored again in the 47th on a penalty kick resulting from Vladyslav Vashchyuk pulling down Torres' shorts and tripping him. The foul also prompted a red card and ejection.

Torres capped the scoring in the 81st after a series of passes. Carles Puyol intercepted a pass at midfield, beat a defender with a spin and dragback then passed to Torres. He sent the ball to Raul Gonzalez, who put it back to Puyol on the edge of the box. Puyol returned it into the path of Torres, who boomed in a right-footer on stride.

"It's painful to lose 4-0," Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin said. "The players did not respect the advice of their coaches.

"On some occasions, we were playing like the worst team in Europe."

Tunisia 2, Saudi Arabia 2

In the tournament's only scheduled all-Arab matchup, Rahdi Jaidi's header in injury time salvaged a point for Tunisia in Munich. It was the first earned by one of the five African teams after Ivory Coast, Angola, Ghana and Togo lost their openers.

The Saudis, who lost their 2002 opener 8-0 to Germany, tied it at 1 in the 57th minute when Noor Mohammed got away from a defender and crossed to Yasser al-Qahtani. They took a 2-1 lead in the 84th on Sami al-Jaber's goal.

Al-Jaber, who ended his retirement from the national team to play in his fourth World Cup, did not start because of a thigh injury and entered the game moments before.

"We weren't very assured," Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre said. "While the first goal (we scored) gave us a boost, it was not enough."

But Jaidi, a 6-foot-3 defender, pushed up and was unmarked in front of the middle of the goal to head in Ziad Jaziri's pinpoint pass.

"They weren't defensive mistakes. They were just two good Tunisian goals," Saudi Arabia coach Marcos Paqueta said.

"We lost two points."

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