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   June 21, 2002 | 1900 IST


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Ballack heads Germany into semis

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Mitch Phillips

Germany reached the World Cup semi-finals with an entertaining 1-0 victory over the United States on Friday, courtesy Michael Ballack's first-half header and great goalkeeping by Oliver Khan.

Ballack rose to glance home a Christian Ziege free kick six minutes before half-time to send his country into the semifinals for the 10th time in 15 tournaments, where they will play Spain or South Korea.

Michael Ballack heads home for Germany's goal.But they were pushed all the way by the underdog U.S. team, who showed no respect for the three-times winners and created some great chances of their own, only to be foiled by Kahn.

American coach Bruce Arena had made a lot of noise in the build-up to the game about Germany's physical superiority and his players showed their intent not to be overwhelmed as they flew into their challenges from the first whistle.

They also played the more creative football and midfielder Landon Donovan lived up to Arena's description of him as oblivious to fear by twice breaking through the German defence.

First, after 17 minutes, the 21-year-old cut in from the right and fired in a sharp low shot that forced Kahn into a full-length diving save.

After half an hour a defence-splitting pass by Claudio Reyna sent him through again but the giant Kahn was on hand once more to save well at the near post.

Eddie Lewis also had a shot beaten out but just as the Americans were starting to think they had a real chance of making their first semi-finals since 1930, Ballack struck.

Despite the U.S. fielding three centre-backs, they had looked shaky against the high ball, and when Ziege curled in a tempting free kick from the right it was midfielder Ballack who rose highest to head past Brad Friedel.

Michael Ballack (R) is hugged by team mate Torsten Frings after scoring.Striker Miroslav Klose almost claimed his sixth of the tournament soon after when he connected with a deep Oliver Neuville cross but his header rebounded off a post.

The U.S. came out full of running after the break and were unlucky not to equalise within four minutes when German defender Torsten Frings handled on the line after Kahn had half-saved a Gregg Berhalter shot.

Reyna then saw an audacious 45-metre lob drop inches over the bar after Kahn had been caught out of his area making a clearance.

However, the U.S. lost their momentum in a scrappy spell that saw a series of yellow cards and the Germans, who had gone out in the quarter-finals in the last two tournaments, held out without too many major scares apart from Tony Sanneh's late header into the side netting.

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