|Germany secured their place in the second stage of France 98, but not without
some worrying moments. Iran, boosted by their victory over the United States
and with the opportunity of qualification if they were to win, gave their all in their
bid for progression. Berti Vogts, using six of the team which won the trophy in
1990, had restored Lothar Matthaeus to the starting line-up to give the Germans
some much needed stability in the middle of the park. For much of the first half,
neither side could gain the upper hand. There were long periods of scrappy play
with some terrible passing which allowed the other team possession, temporarily,
until they themselves returned the 'favour'. Iran were defending deeply and then
trying to catch the Germans with pacy counter-attacks. With a couple of chances
early on, Kopke spilling a Bagheri free-kick and then a race between the German
'keeper and Mahdavikia, the Iranians grew in confidence throughout the half.
Both sides cancelled each other out and with Germany's best chances coming
from dead ball situations. Vogts, recognising the lack of inventiveness, replaced
Thon with Hamann for the second half and this switch was to reap dividends.
After the referee had had a minute of madness, booking Hassler and Daei in
separate incidents within 30 seconds, the German scoring machine found it's
touch. Thomas Hassler managed to get behind the Iranian defence and put over
the perfect cross for Oliver Bierhoff to put the Germany ahead. Still reeling from
the shock, five minutes later, Bierhoff's shot came back off a post for fellow striker
and captain, Jurgen Klinsmann, to score acrobatically with a diving header. Just
for a moment it looked as if the workmanlike had been replaced with the
wonderful, but it was back to business as usual within moments. Aware of the fact
that Yugoslavia were leading the USA and that they would need to score three
more times to be group winners, the Germans took their foot off the pedal. It was
they who then defended deep in their own half and were limited to the
occasional breakaway. Iran, however, were running out of steam - Bagheri,
Mahdavikia and Azizi were all disappointing and the team never really found a
cutting edge. Kopke was a virtual spectator for the second half and did not have
a save to make. So, as expected, Germany made it through to the last sixteen, but
not in the convincing fashion that was expected of them. Two of their three
performances in the group stage were unconvincing at best and they seemed only
to do the minimum to progress. But they will now meet Mexico, runners-up in
Group E, for a quarter-final place, back in Montpellier on Saturday.
(1-0) Bierhoff (50). Thomas Hassler got behind the Iranian defence to the by-line and whipped in a right foot cross, Oliver
Bierhoff, on the edge of the six yard box, outjumped Khakpour and Pashazedeh to direct a powerful
downward header into the centre of the goal.
(2-0) Klinsmann (58). Matthaus played the ball through from the halfway line, Heinrich headed it back across the edge of
the area for Bierhoff to volley right-footed, his shot came back off the base of the 'keeper's right-hand
post and the German captain threw himself forward, acrobatically, to head home from eight yards.