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Sunday, 11 June, 2000, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Kirsten doubtful for veterans meeting
Ulf Kirsten in action against Northern Ireland
Ulf Kirsten: Striker has pinched a nerve
Germany's Ulf Kirsten may miss his team's opening match with Romania due to a back problem.

The Bayer Leverkusen striker sustained the injury in training on Sunday.

The defending champions play Romania in Liege on Monday, with few at home confident that their ageing squad can repeat their 1996 success.

Kirsten, 34, is one of a number of veterans in German squad, although Monday's opponents hardly have youth on their side.
Germany v Romania
Germany have won seven of the previous 10 matches
Romania's only victory was a 1-0 success in Bucharest in 1967
The last meeting was one of only two draws, a 1-1 result in 1998
The Germans won 2-1 during the Euro 84

Their star player is the 35-year-old Gheorge Hagi, while others such as Gica Popescu and Dan Petrescu are also veterans of two World Cups and Euro 96.

Kirsten was expected to start up front alongside Oliver Bierhoff, another man to have now passed 30.

But head coach Erich Ribbeck explained that the Leverkusen striker had pinched a nerve in his back.

"We have to wait and see if he still feels pain after our final training tomorrow," said Ribbeck after Sunday's setback.

"Only then will I make a decision."

If Kirsten fails to respond to treatment then Paulo Rink is likely to partner Bierhoff.
German coach EriRibbeck
Ribbeck knows his faltering team must gel

Ribbeck's other option, Bayern Munich's Carsten Jancker, sustained a foot injury on Sunday.

The German coach has refused to give details of his starting line-up but has said that Thomas Hassler would play, winning his 100th cap.

The 34-year-old had not played for Germany for two years when he was recalled for this tournament.

Veteran Lothar Matthaus and midfielder Jens Jeremies are expected to overcome injuries having trained normally over the weekend.

"There is a risk in making Matthaus and Jeremies play but taking risks is part of the game of football," said Ribbeck.

It's always difficult when you play a team with a fine playmaker who's a potential match-winner

Jens Nowotny

"All I can tell you about the starting line-up is that there will be few surprises."

One of the most important tasks assigned to any German player will be that faced by Jens Nowotny, the man charged with marking Hagi.

"It's always difficult when you play a team with a fine playmaker who's a potential match-winner," admitted the German.

"If he's having a great day, you're in trouble."

Galatasaray's superb Uefa Cup campaign proved that the ageing Romanian can still have such days.

And Hagi hopes his country can finally rid themselves of their unlucky underachievers tag.

Romania have never won a match in the European championships but the veteran is confident of improving on that record.

With Germany, both teams will be wanting to make a good start and I think it's going to be a good game

Gheorge Hagi

"One day you have to begin," he said.

Romania's last two major tournaments have seen little in the way of good fortune.

At Euro 96 a perfectly good goal by Dorinel Munteanu against Bulgaria was disallowed by Danish official Peter Mikkelsen.

And in France 98 Davor Suker's dubious penalty saw Croatia home after a marginal foul on the edge of the area.
Hagi, Romanian superstar
Gheorge Hagi is still the main-man for Romania

Little is known about Romania's exact plans for the match, with coach Emerich Jenei claiming to have no idea what his team will look like on Monday.

"I have many different starting elevens in my head," he said.

But Hagi says whoever plays, they will find the Germans tough oponents.

"Every game is going to be difficult," Hagi said.

"With Germany, both teams will be wanting to make a good start and I think it's going to be a good game."

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Germany
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See also:

10 Jun 00 | Germany
Matthaus fit to play
09 Jun 00 | Romania
Hagi likely to face Germany
14 May 00 | Squad
Ulf Kirsten
06 Jun 00 | Romania
Hagi lined up for Galatasaray job
05 Jun 00 | Romania
Romania miss Hagi in nervy win
08 Jun 00 | Germany
Big win boosts German hopes
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