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   1 Jun, 2002 | 1115 IST



France get the blues

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Saudi motivated for another shock

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Germany were filled with as much trepidation as determination on Saturday as they completed final preparations for their opening World Cup group E clash with Saudi Arabia in the futuristic Sapporo Dome.

After seeing holders France beaten by finals debutants Senegal in Friday's opening match, coach Rudi Voeller knew his team faced a challenging clash against the little-known Sons of the Desert.

The result in Seoul not only proved that the defending champions were beatable, but that there are no easy opponents at this level, particularly as Saudi Arabia recently beat Senegal 3-2.

"We believe we can perform well against any opponents and we are not afraid of Germany," said the Saudi Arabian goalkeeper Mohammed Al Deaya, who will make his 169th international appearance on Saturday. "We respect them, but we are not afraid.

"We want to perform well for ourselves, for our country and for our reputation. We believe in our ability to do this, but we know that we face strong opponents and will have to be at our best to win."

The Saudi Arabians made their maiden appearance in the finals in 1994 in the United States, where they reached the second round, and, after a first round exit in France four years ago, hope to emulate their American achievement.

"That is our target and we believe we can do it, but we know how difficult it will be," said coach Nasser Al-Johar, who has been assured his job will be secure whatever the results in the tournament.

Germany, three times winners of the trophy, are no longer among the main favourites this time and could be vulnerable to the wiry skills and spiders' web defensive tactics they will face.

To counter this, and to exploit their potential superiority in physical and aerial challenges, Voeller is expected to use big striker Carsten Jancker, who struggled to score for his club Bayern Munich last season, in attack alongside the free-scoring young talent of Miroslav Klose.

The Germans believe they are well prepared and properly focused.

"We are not taking this game lightly," their goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn said. "It is absolutely decisive because it gives the impulse for the entire tournament. We must threat it like a final."

Playmaker Michael Ballack, who carries much of Germany's hopes in the absence from the squad of fellow midfielders Sebastian Deisler and Mehmet Scholl, is expected to start despite a bruised foot.

Voeller, whose two main central defenders Jens Nowotny and Christian Woerns, were also ruled out of the World Cup by injury, has also lost right back Marko Rehmer with a thigh strain.

This has forced him to switch from his favoured 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 against smothering and counter-attacking opponents with a lively attack and plenty of motivation after Senegal's exploits in Seoul.

Probable teams:

Germany (3-5-2): 1-Oliver Kahn; 21-Christoph Metzelder, 5-Carsten Ramelow, 2-Thomas Linke; 22-Torsten Frings, 8-Dietmar Hamann, 19-Bernd Schneider, 13-Michael Ballack, 6-Christian Ziege; 11-Miroslav Klose, 9-Carsten Jancker.

Saudi Arabia (3-5-2): 1-Mohammed Al-Daeyea; 4-Abdullah Sulaiman, 5-Mohsin Al-Harthi, 3-Redha Tukar; 12-Ahmed Dukhi Al-Dossary, 17-Abdallah Al-Waked, 16-Khamis Al-Owairan, 8-Mohammed Noor, 13-Hussein Abdulghani; 9-Sami Al-Jaber, 11-Obeid Al-Dossary.

Referee: Ubaldo Aquino (Paraguay)

Miguel Giacomuzzi (Paraguay)
Michael Ragoonath (Trinidad)

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