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   June 28, 2002 | 1240 IST


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Hamann pushed into the limelight

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Dietmar Hamann is usually happy to let others shine but in Sunday's World Cup final, the Germany midfielder could well be offered a leading role.

The 28-year-old Liverpool player, whose dedication has been instrumental in the triple champions' run to the historic clash with Brazil in Yokohama, is expected to take over the playmaking duties from the suspended Michael Ballack.

"Didi always gives his very best, no matter at which level or in which position he plays," coach Rudi Voeller said on Friday.

Voeller hoped Hamann, who embodies the virtues that have helped Germany recapture their winning ways, would help his team counter Brazil's brilliant side.

"Before every game, he says 'keep order'," Voeller said. "He doesn't say it loud but then, he helps the team do just that."

With Jens Jeremies expected to replace him in his usual defensive role at the centre of midfield, Hamann should get more exposure further up the field in a game he described as a unique opportunity.

"This match is a dream come true," he said of Germany's first ever World Cup encounter with Brazil. "We could make history."

Hamann, who won the first of his 45 caps in 1997, was desperate for success with the national team after traumatic experiences at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, with Germany disappearing in the quarter-finals and after the first round respectively.


"At those two tournaments there were problems from the start," he said. "But this time you could feel straight away that the atmosphere was different. Everybody stood closely together with the same goal."

Hamann was only 16 when he joined Bayern Munich and had won the UEFA Cup in 1996 and two German titles with them when he left for Newcastle in 1998.

The following year came the move to Liverpool, where he reached a new dimension, playing a crucial part in their campaign to the UEFA, F.A. and League Cup treble last year.

Making history is a habit for the German, who will be remembered for spoiling England's last international game staged at Wembley with a thunderous free-kick that gave Germany a 1-0 victory in a World Cup qualifier in October 2000.

The quiet, almost shy Hamann also has a painful story to tell. He fell paralysed on one side after collapsing at his Munich home in 1997. A stroke was feared after doctors identified brain bleeding but he made a complete recovery.

"That sort of thing makes you realise how unimportant football is," he once said of his mysterious illness.

The game certainly still matters to him, as he illustrated with tireless performances in all but one of Germany's games in the finals -- he was suspended for the second round match against Paraguay.

There were fears he might have to sit out again after he hurt ligaments on his right knee but he braved the pain to pursue his dream, now just one match away.

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