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Germany Draws Even With Yugoslavia

By Nesha Starcevic
Associated Press
Sunday, June 21, 1998; 12:52 p.m. EDT

LENS, France — Never, ever write off Germany.

Completely dominated by a technically superior Yugoslavia team for 70 minutes, the Germans stormed back in the last 20 to erase a two-goal deficit and tie 2-2 Sunday.

"We knew they would show their real face today. They play a very strong technical game and they were very especially motivated against us,'' said Lothar Matthaeus said. "But our team showed its morale by coming back.''

Matthaeus, 37, made World Cup history, coming on in the second half for a record 22nd match in his fifth World Cup.

The draw gave both teams four points in Group F, with Germany ahead on goal differential. The Germans beat the United States, 2-0, and Yugoslavia edged Iran, 1-0, in opening games.

But Yugoslavia could and should have clinched a place in the second round, and will be left wondering what went wrong late in the game. Yugoslavia has not beaten Germany since 1973.

Oliver Bierhoff, always a man for important goals, came through with a powerful header in the 80th minute off a corner kick by Olaf Thon to tie it.

Bierhoff scored the "golden goal'' that gave Germany the European title in 1996 and now has 18 goals in 28 games for the national team.

"Every team in the world would be happy with this result,'' Bierhoff said. "We were outplayed for most of the match, but we managed to turn the result.''

Yugoslavia looked on course for three points when Dragan Stojkovic made the score 2-0 in the 54th. Dejan Stankovic had opened the scoring for Yugoslavia in the 13th.

But Germany benefited from a fortunate deflection goal in the 74th minute and Yugoslavia's sudden collapse.

Michael Tarnat, a second-half substitute, fired a powerful left-footed free kick from 25 yards that struck sweeper Sinisa Mihajlovic's outstretched right boot and changed direction, giving goalkeeper Ivica Kralj no chance. The goal was credited to Tarnat, although Yugoslav Coach Slobodan Santrac thought it was an own goal.

"It really shook us up and we gave them the chance to equalize,'' Santrac said. "We didn't know how to preserve the victory.''

So much under control until then, the Yugoslavs forgot about threatening the German goal. The Germans, looking for their fourth World Cup title, took advantage of the unexpected gift.

German Coach Berti Vogts said his team had risen from the dead.

"We made possible what seemed impossible,'' Vogts said. "We turned defeat into a near victory.

"They wanted to toy with us instead of trying to score a third goal and they got punished for that.''

Yugoslavia took charge 13 minutes into the game when Predrag Mijatovic, 30 yards from goal, sent in a left wing cross, and Stankovic got the faintest of touches to make the ball bounce over German goalkeeper Andreas Koepke.

Yugoslavia doubled its lead three minutes into the second half courtesy of a blunder by Koepke. Darko Kovacevic fired low into the goalmouth and Koepke fumbled the ball to present Yugoslav captain Stojkovic with a simple tap-in.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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