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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK

Germans grind on

By Stuart Roach
BBC Sport Online's man in Korea

Germany stuttered into the quarter-finals of the World Cup with an unconvincing display against lightweight Paraguay.

Not so much typical German efficiency as a machine struggling to get out of second gear.

There was little doubt the better team won, though Germany laboured to prove the point during arguably the worst game of the tournament so far.

In fairness, the crowd turned a poor game into an even poorer show.

Only 25,000 fans peppered the terraces of a Seogwipo ground that holds nearly twice as many - and few of those who did show suggested they had the stomach for what was on offer.

A Mexican wave, a depressing sign that a game is dying on its feet, was under way inside 20 minutes, surely some kind of ridiculous World Cup record?

A better side than Paraguay, who often looked happy just to have escaped the group stages after their fightback against Slovenia, would have made more of the alarming amount of pressure afforded them by Germany.

In fairness to the Germans, they were missing half a team.

Mehmet Scholl, Sebastian Deisler, Christian Worns, Jens Nowotny and Jorg Heinrich all failed to make the World Cup because of injury.

Jorg Bohme added to the casualty list as he flew home last week and Carsten Ramelow, Christian Ziege and Dietmar Hamann were all suspended for the Paraguay clash.

Even so, Germany have not yet done enough to suggest they are world beaters once more.

" This is how championship teams are born "
German journalist

The 8-0 scoreline in their opening game said more about Saudi Arabia's ineptitude than Germany's class.

Ireland deservedly held them 1-1 and the victories over Cameroon and Paraguay were all about survival and patience respectively.

Yet they may not have to be world beaters to progress further.

The demise of France, Argentina and Portugal and Italy's failure to win their group leaves Germany's road ahead relatively obstacle-free.

They will face Mexico or USA in the quarter-finals and, with coach Rudi Voeller welcoming back his trio of suspended stars, the Germans suddenly look a reasonable bet for a semi-final place.

That is a far cry from the shambles Voeller looked out on last autumn.

Thrashed 5-1 by England and forced to qualify through the play-offs, Voeller would have bitten the hand that offered him a place in the last eight of this World Cup.

For Germany, it is a case of back to the good old bad old days, when they were winning games by sacrificing style for ruthless efficiency.

"This is how championship teams are born," laughed one German journalist after the dire but desirable win over Paraguay.

Ominously, he may just have a point.

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