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Germany Heads to World Cup With Impressive Record - 2002-05-10

Germany's football (soccer) team has an impressive record in the World Cup, with 15 straight appearances, second only to Brazil. The squad won three championships representing West Germany in 1954, 1974, and 1990. But as VOA's Steve Schy reports, a lot of people don't think Germany is the team it used to be.

Germany needed to beat Ukraine in a playoff just to make it to this year's World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan. The Germans are in Group E with Saudi Arabia, Cameroon and Ireland. While the team has a lot of critics, international football commentator Derek Rae says they are putting too much emphasis on the team's 5-1 home qualifying loss to England.

"So many people are writing off the Germans, and it is always a foolish thing to do. People who should know better are saying this is a dreadful German team," he says. " I've heard it all before. Certainly this is not the German team of old, but some young players are starting to come through the system."

Such as?

"Michael Ballack emerged as a real force for Germany in the playoff game they had to undergo against the Ukraine just to get into the World Cup finals," he notes. "And there are others as well. People like Sebastian Deisler, if he's fit."

But coach Rudi Voller will be missing key players because of injuries. Even so, Derek Rae thinks the draw favors Germany.

"They find themselves in the half of the draw that gives them a chance to avoid France, England [and] Argentina," explains Rae. "In the round of 16 and quarterfinals they could find themselves up against Italy or Croatia, or teams like that. I suppose what I'm saying is that I think Germany will win their group."

That depends on which German team shows up in South Korea for first round play - the one that beat Ukraine 5-2 on aggregate, or the squad that fell 5-1 to England.