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Germany and Brazil reach World Cup final

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jay Mwamba By mid-morning today, the lineup for Sunday’s World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan, will have been completed, setting the stage for an intriguing conclusion to what has been the most unpredictable championship in history.

Four-time winners Brazil were favorites to reach their third straight final ahead of their 7:30 a.m. kick off against Turkey in Saitama this morning, with the winners going up against Germany, who ended South Korea’s Cinderella run, 1-0, yesterday, in Sunday’s final, which will be broadcast live at 6:30 a.m. on Ch.7 and Ch. 41 in the New York area.

The final will be preceded by the third-place “heart-break” match on Saturday (6:30 a.m., Ch. 41) between South Korea and the other losing semifinalists.

If the semifinal presence of the Brazilians and three-time winners Germany, represented the status quo in world football, the surprise qualification of upstarts South Korea and unfancied Turkey underscored the zany nature of a tournament in which the form book was so unexpectedly torn to shreds.

Germans reach final

Michael Ballack scored on the rebound of his own shot in the 75th minute to give Germany a 1-0 victory Tuesday night, ending South Korea’s dream of becoming the first Asian team in a World Cup final.

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The three-time champions reached the final for a record seventh time and first since 1990.

“It’s a great achievement. I’m happy for the team, for the entire nation,” defender Christoph Metzelder said. “It just has to sink in first.”

The Germans have never trailed in the tournament. They weren’t about to give up that streak against the South Koreans.

Ballack’s goal, his third of the tournament, stunned the cheering, chanting, singing crowd of about 65,000. The red-clad “Red Devils” fans then resumed singing for the home team, hoping they could will South Korea to yet another upset of a European power.

South Korea’s best chance was Lee Chun-soo’s curling 15-yard shot in the eighth minute, which was batted away by goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who dived to his right, fully extended.

Brazil top England

Brazil’s advance to the final four last Friday was perhaps the one adherence to form as two moments of Samba magic by the brilliant Ronaldinho ended England’s run in the quarterfinals.

The Boys from Rio overcame a stunning Michael Owen goal (23rd) and the 57th-minute dismissal of Ronaldinho to triumph 2-1 on a steamy afternoon in Shizuoka.

Owen, a tormentor of big teams, pounced on an error by defender Lucio to shoot England ahead. But the 1966 winners were pegged back on the stroke of halftime when a dazzling run through the English defense by the 22-year-old Ronaldinho set up Rivaldo for Brazil’s equalizer.

Ronaldinho delivered the coup de grace four minutes after the interval when he caught goalkeeper David Seaman off his line with an opportunistic 35-yard free kick that floated into the top left hand corner.

England attempted to rally after that but were surprisingly flat and unimaginative down the stretch, even after Ronaldinho’s ejection for a crude challenge on Danny Mills.

The loss was England’s fourth in as many World Cup meetings with the Brazilians and their first defeat in a competitive match under the tutelage of coach Sven Goran Eriksson.

“We had a very good opportunity to reach the semifinal and we didn’t take it,” said Eriksson, who blamed defensive slips for both Brazilian goals.

The Swede lamented his men’s inability to capitalize on Ronaldinho’s ejection, saying, “We seemed tired and we lost a little bit of our shape and at the end we knocked in balls to the three (Brazilian) center backs instead of having more patience and playing the ball up front.”

Predictably, Brazilian boss Luiz Felipe Scolari was ecstatic.

“I feel happiness,” he said. “It’s a job well done and enables us to give something to the Brazilian people. I have a personal feeling of great satisfaction.”

Before this latest encounter, Brazil had gone on to win the World Cup after every victory over England in the finals (1958, 1962 and 1970).

Turkish rematch

Turkey, beaten 2-1 by the South Americans in a controversial Group C match three weeks ago, earned a rematch with Brazil by stopping African surprise package Senegal 1-0 on a “golden goal” in their Osaka quarterfinal last Saturday.

Substitute Ilhan Mansiz struck the winner in the fourth minute of extra time, of what was largely a disappointing affair.

“We deserved this win and we showed that our players deserve to be at the World Cup,” said Turkish coach Senol Gunes, whose men missed a hatful of chances in regulation time, which ended 0-0.

His Senegalese opposite, the French-born Bruno Metsu, was equally proud of his side, which equaled Cameroon’s Italia ’90 quarterfinal run for best performance by an African team in the finals.

“I am very, very proud,” he said. “We have come here and shown that we were capable of upsetting the hierarchy of world football. It gives us a lot of hope for the future and the development of football in our country and in Africa.”

The “Lions of Teranga” return to African with two famous scalps, those of defending champs France (1-0) and Sweden (2-1), from their debut tournament.

Earlier in the second round, Turkey had shattered Japan’s hopes with a 1-0 win on Umit Davala’s 12th minute strike, in Miyagi.

U.S. checked

A Michael Ballack header (38th) enabled less-than-convincing Germany to eke out a 1-0 decision over the United States in Ulsan as Team USA’s grand campaign came to an abrupt halt in the quarterfinals.

The Germans were given a good run for their money by the speedy Americans and had goalie Oliver Kahn to thank for the result.

“Oliver Kahn saved our lives so many times in the first half. We knew if we wanted to get far in this World Cup then we needed a fantastic Oliver Kahn,” acknowledged coach Rudi Voeller.

Said Bruce Arena, the American coach: “The match was about chances. We had a lot but could not score. The Germans had two and converted one and that was the difference.”

Team USA finished the tournament with two wins, two losses and a tie, for their best showing in the finals since they reached the semifinals of the inaugural finals in 1930.

Controversial hosts

South Korea’s advance to the semis was perhaps the most remarkable, and most controversial, following disputed wins over Italy in the second round and Ireland’s Round of 16 conquerors Spain (5-3 penalties) in the quarters.

Drilled by former Dutch boss Guus Hiddink, the Koreans knocked out Italy’s Azzurri 2-1 in the second round on Ahn Jung Hwan’s “golden goal” (117th) in D’jeon.

The Italians vehemently protested the handling of the match by Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno who disallowed two of their goals and sent off playmaker Francesco Totti (103rd) for diving.

Christian Vieri (18th) had given Italy an early lead after a penalty miss by Ahn in the fourth minute.

Next up for the Koreans were Spain, occupying the berth that could have been Ireland’s in the quarterfinals, in Gwangju.

The Spaniards also had two goals waved off by Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour before their young goalie Iker Casillas failed to reproduce his shot-stopping act that knocked out the Republic, in the ensuring penalty shoot-out.

Casillas was beaten four times out of four and when Sanchez Joaquin missed Spain’s fourth effort, Korean skipper Hong Myung-Bo calmly stroked the fifth penalty home to clinch it for the co-hosts.

Later, Casillas pulled no punches in accusing the referees of favoring the Koreans throughout the tournament.

“We’d already seen this when South Korea played against the United States, Portugal and Italy,” he charged.

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