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   June 29, 2002 | 1630 IST


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Leverkusen syndrome over final

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Patrick Vignal

The Bayer Leverkusen players who form the backbone of the Germany team will be desperate to shake off their tag as perpetual runners-up in Sunday's World Cup final against Brazil.

Defender Carsten Ramelow, midfielder Bernd Schneider and striker Oliver Neuville know all about losing finals as their Leverkusen side were beaten in both the Champions League and German Cup ones this season, not to mention their second place to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga standings.

But Germany coach Rudi Voeller, himself a former Leverkusen striker and sports director, said they were by no means nearly men.

"They had a fantastic season with their club and they have confirmed their worth with their performances here for the national team," said Voeller.

"Of course they were bitter after missing out on three titles but they soon got over it to look ahead."

Ramelow said another failure in a decisive match would be just too much.

"I refuse to imagine we will finish second for the fourth time," he said. "If there is some sort of justice, we will make up for the recent disappointments by achieving the greatest feat a football player can dream of."

Schneider, who had predicted earlier in the tournament that with the Leverkusen players around Germany were at least assured of reaching the final, said he was tired of references to his club's sorry tale.


"I can't hear it any more," he said. "If we were losers we wouldn't have gone that far."

Neuville was also determined to erase the painful memories from the traumatic month of May that saw Leverkusen fail to win their first German title, fall 2-1 to Real Madrid in the Champions League final and suffer a 4-1 defeat to Schalke 04 in the German Cup final.

"Since we arrived in Japan we have one big goal and that is to win a title at last," he said.

Leverkusen's most valued player Michael Ballack, will miss Sunday's battle through suspension.

"Perhaps the fact that I'm not in the final is a good sign," said the Germany playmaker, who was instrumental in his side's run to the World Cup final.

"Not only Leverkusen but also (UEFA Cup finalists) Borussia Dortmund have demonstrated that German football is competitive at international level, even if they lost their finals," he added. "But you can't really compare those games with a World Cup final.

Dortmund were beaten 3-2 by Feyenoord in the UEFA Cup final.

Leverkusen goalkeeper Hans-Joerg Butt, a reserve for captain Oliver Kahn, will also be close to the action while the club's skipper, defender Jens Nowotny, will be watching from home after a knee injury ruled him out of the tournament.

Whatever happens on Sunday, a Leverkusen player will be on the winning side as Brazil have their own in defender Lucio.

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