Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Germany returns to form

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL The German team overcame the Swiss 2-0 and the Czech Republic beat Bulgaria 3-1


Switzerland's coach Koebi Kuhn, right, and Germany's coach Rudi Voeller talk before their international friendly match in the St. Jakob Park stadium in Basel, Wednesday.


Germany and the Czech Republic seem to have finally turned into European Championship contenders -- and not a minute too soon.

Both teams suffered surprising losses in April as the run-up to the Euro 2004 finals started to get into full swing. But on Wednesday, Kevin Kuranyi scored two goals as the Germans downed Switzerland 2-0, and the Czechs easily handled Bulgaria 3-1.

Both Switzerland and Bulgaria also have qualified for the European Championship, which starts on June 12 in Portugal.

In Basel, Switzerland, three-time European champion Germany never looked in danger of losing its 38-year unbeaten record against the Alpine nation.

Miroslav Klose set up the first goal by taking advantage of a poor defensive header from Bernt Haas in the 62nd minute and feeding Kuranyi for a close-range shot.

Brdaric, who replaced Klose, almost doubled the lead but Switzerland goalkeeper Joerg Stiel tipped his shot around the post.

Kuranyi scored his second of the game -- and fourth for Germany -- with a fine header from an Arne Friedrich cross in the 85th.

Switzerland thought it had pulled back a consolation goal through Bruno Berner in the 88th, but it was ruled offside.

The Germans will face the Czech Republic, Latvia and the Netherlands in Group D at the Euro 2004 finals. Switzerland is in Group B with defending champion France, England and Croatia.

In April, Germany was crushed by Romania 5-1. The Czechs lost to Japan 1-0.

In Prague, Czech Republic, the hosts got second-half goals from Liverpool striker Milan Baros, Monaco midfielder Jaroslav Plasil and Dortmund playmaker Tomas Rosicky to win their first match of the year.

Bulgaria got a consolation goal from Milen Petkov at Sparta stadium.

Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner fielded a lineup that's likely to start in Portugal, with Golden Ball winner Pavel Nedved of Juventus in the midfield and Dortmund's Jan Koller up front.

"Something was positive, something was negative," Bruckner said. "The attacking was good but in the defense ... that's where we had problems."

At the Euro 2004 finals, Bulgaria will meet Italy, Sweden and Denmark in Group C.

In London, Graham Barrett celebrated his first start with the only goal as Ireland edged Jamaica 1-0.

Barrett, an attacking midfielder with Division One Coventry City, fired home a low, 25m shot in the 26th minute after the Reggae Boyz defense had given him too much room the edge of the area.

Marlon King had the best chance of the first half for Jamaica, but the Gillingham striker's shot was well held by keeper Paddy Kenny.

Jamaica opens its 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign against Haiti on June 12 in Miami. The second leg is scheduled for June 20.

In Seoul, South Korea, Hakan Sukur scored in the 21st minute at the Seoul World Cup Stadium as Turkey edged the hosts 1-0.

South Korea had several good chances, including a header by Cho Byung-kuk in the first half, but failed to capitalize.

The same two teams are scheduled to meet again Saturday in Daegu. Two years ago, Turkey won the third-place match in South Korea.

The South Koreans are gearing up for 2006 World Cup qualifying, which resumes on June 9 against visiting Vietnam. South Korea leads Group 7 with four points from two matches, but was held to a surprising 0-0 draw in its last match at the Maldives.

The surprising draw cost Humberto Coelho his job as coach.

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