Vol. 4 Num 327 Fri. April 30, 2004  

Romanian blitzkrieg
Dutch class too much for Greece

The European Championship is just over six weeks away. It may be coming too soon for Germany and the Czech Republic.

With only defending champion France and England idle, Wednesday's friendlies were the last chance for many Euro 2004 coaches to watch their sides before the official teams are named for the June 12-July 4 championship.

Germany coach Rudi Voeller and Karel Bruckner of the Czech Republic didn't like what they saw.

World Cup runner-up Germany was humbled 5-1 by Romania, its worst lost since falling by the same score to England in 2001 in World Cup qualifying.

The Czechs went down 1-0 at home against Japan, their second straight loss after being unbeaten in 20 games.

"There is no excuse at all for this," said German captain and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who let in four first-half goals. "We let ourselves be slaughtered. It was humiliating."

"I felt worse after the loss to England, but it still hurts," said Voeller, who had several key players out injured. "There is no excuse, although we'll probably never play again with this lineup."

The Japanese were nearly perfect in the first half. The Czechs put them under pressure in the second half, but their organized defense survived.

"It wasn't a good match for us," Czech coach Karel Bruckner said. "We failed to put Japan under enough pressure."

Germany, European champion in 1996 -- and as West Germany in 1972 and 1980 -- was down 4-0 after only 43 minutes with all four going in behind Kahn. Second-half substitute Gabriel Caramarin scored the final Romanian goal and Philipp Lahm scored late for Germany.

Mihaita Plesan made it 1-0 in the 21st followed by Razvan Rat (24th) and Ionel Danciulescu (36th and 43rd).

Romania failed to qualify for Euro 2004, but got some pleasure with only its second win over Germany in 12 matches.

Germany, without injured defender Christian Woerns and midfielder Christian Rahn, got more bad news when midfielder Michael Ballack was ruled out just before kickoff with a calf injury. Frank Baumann, Jens Nowotny and reserve goalkeeper Jens Lehmann also missed the match with injuries. Timo Hildebrand played the second half for Kahn.

Germany's thrashing even without playmaker Ballack left German football legend Franz Beckenbauer incredulous.

"Anyone in Europe looking at this result will think it is a printing error," exclaimed the Kaiser.

Captain Oliver Kahn had the misfortune of playing in the last time they lost 5-1, to England in a 2002 World Cup qualifier, and was angry that the scoreline could be repeated.

There was only an abject apology from coach Rudi Voller, who was in the then West Germany team that won the 1990 World Cup and which was managed by Beckenbauer while Vogts was the assistant coach.

"It reminds me of the England game," admitted Voller. "We made too many amateur mistakes and were punished.

"We can only apologise to everyone for the first half."

At Prague, the highly regarded Czechs failed to beat the Japanese defense despite applying pressure in the final 25 minutes. The Czechs lost to Ireland last month 2-1.

Japan got the winning goal in the 32nd with a swerving shot by Tatsuhiko Kubo that got behind Czech goalkeeper Peter Cech.

Bruckner fielded a lineup that's likely to start at Euro 2004 with Pavel Nedved of Juventus leading at midfield and Liverpool's Milan Baros and Dortmund's Jan Koller up front.

The Czechs are among a pack of contenders expected to challenge defending champion France. Japan was without injured midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata.

European Championship host Portugal, winless in seven straight against Euro 2004 qualifiers, is battling its own problems.

Playing in Coimbra, Portugal, substitute Nuno Gomes headed in an equalizer in the final minute to salvage a 2-2 draw with Sweden.

Kim Kallstrom and Pedro Pauleta got the first-half goals in a game dominated by the Portuguese. Luis Figo missed a first-half penalty and twice hit the woodwork. An own-goal by Rui Jorge five minutes from the end gave Sweden a brief 2-1 lead.

Greece had its 15-match unbeaten string stopped in a 4-0 loss at the Netherlands. Greece has been able to grind out victories under coach Otto Rehhagel, but the Dutch were too much with Roy Makaay, Boudewijn Zenden, Johnny Heitinga and Pierre van Hooijdonk scoring in Eindhoven.

Italy and Spain drew 1-1 in Genoa. Fernando Torres gave Spain a lead early in the second half, but Christian Vieri leveled minutes later. Roberto Baggio was feted with a stadium full of banners and cheered at each touch of the ball in his farewell to the Italian national team.

Dimitar Berbatov scored twice and Zdravko Lazarov got the other in Bulgarian's 3-0 win over Cameroon. Cameroon's Lucian Mettomo picked up a red card eight minutes into the second half. Berbatov converted a penalty two minutes later, and Lazarov scored two minutes after that.

Norway defeated qualifier Russia 3-2. Norway took a 3-0 lead on goals by Martin Andresen, Sigurd Rushfeldt and Jan Gunnar Soli before Vladislav Radimov and Dmitry Kirichenko made it close.

Croatia won 1-0 at Macedonia on Ivan Klasnic's goal midway through the first half.

Denmark substitute Ebbe Sand scored in the 60th minute to beat Scotland 1-0. It was the Danes' third victory in four tuneup matches for Euro 2004.

Switzerland won at home 2-1 over Slovenia on second-half goals from Fabio Celestini and Hakan Yakin. Zlatko Zahovic scored for the Slovenes.

TORN APART: Romania's Ionel Danciulescu is ecstatic after scoring while Germany's Jens Jeremies (L) and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn (C) are speechless in Bucharest on April 28. PHOTO: AFP