WORLD CUP USA ‘94 ROUND OF 16 : Germany Clean as a Non-Whistle : Soccer: Voeller scores twice in 3-2 victory, but lack of a call has Belgians crying foul.


The foul was obvious, the choice was clear, the world was waiting.

Cameras had caught the German red-footed.

Yet, referee Kurt Rothlisberger, a schoolteacher from Switzerland, did a curious thing with a whistle in the 70th minute of Saturday’s World Cup game.

He swallowed it.

Germany did not require favors to defeat Belgium, 3-2, before 60,246 at Soldier Field. Looking almost ordinary in group play, the Germans came out swinging in the round of 16, scoring three goals in the first 40 minutes.

Victory advances Germany, reigning World Cup champion, to a July 10 quarterfinal match against the winner of Mexico versus Bulgaria.

Saturday’s exciting match, unfortunately, will not be best remembered for the continued brilliance of forward Juergen Klinsmann, or for the soccer resurrection of Rudi Voeller, a 34-year-old striker who scored twice after being reunited with Klinsmann on the offensive front.


Instead, Germany-Belgium will take its tainted place in the FIFA hall of shame because of a critical non-call in the game’s defining moment.

With his team trailing, 3-1, in the 70th minute, Belgium’s Georges Grun centered a pass in the German penalty area to forward Josip Weber, who split two defenders--Thomas Helmer and Andreas Brehme--and had a clear shot on goal.

But before Weber could get off a shot, Helmer took him down from behind, an offense that should have warranted a penalty kick under guidelines FIFA outlined before the tournament to protect offensive players.

Helmer, who earlier in the game had received a yellow card, might have easily been red-carded for the “professional foul,” which would have left Germany a man short for the rest of the game.

But Rothlisberger stood silent as ballistic Belgians stormed the referee in protest.

How important was the non-call? In the 90th minute, Belgium defender Philippe Albert cut the German lead to 3-2 when he drove a shot past goalkeeper Bodo Illgner.

In the frantic final seconds, the Belgians came close to tying the score. The Germans missed some chances too, but that was not a topic of discussion later.

Paul Van Himst, the Belgium coach, could not hide his disgust.

“Millions of spectators saw what happened,” he said of the non-call. “I do believe such a decision is a scandal. I don’t know what was going on in the mind of referee, but if I was in charge the referee would be sent home.”

The Belgium delegation, headed by Roger Vanden Stock, announced it would file a letter of protest to FIFA, although most suspect the letter soon will find the bottom of a wastebasket.

“FIFA has told us the rules were going to change,” Vanden Stock lamented. “Tackles from behind should be punished. We are a victim of these new rules.”

FIFA took a hard line on hard tackles in the first round. For taking down a South Korean player in the goal area, Spain’s Miguel Nadal received a red-card ejection and later was suspended for two games.

The Germans, of course, saw the play differently.

“No, it should not have been a penalty kick,” said Helmer, the perpetrator. “It was not a foul. I touched him, to bother him a bit. But it was not an intentional foul. And that’s how the referee saw it.”

Added Berti Vogts, the German coach: “The referee did not whistle, therefore, it was not a penalty kick.”

The controversy did nothing to undermine the Germans’ dominance of the game. If not for some spectacular goalkeeping by Michel Preud’homme, Germany might have scored six or seven goals.

The same Germans who wilted in the Texas heat took to a cool summer rain like the waters of Lourdes.

After years of tinkering, the Germans apparently found the bookend to complement Klinsmann, who scored his fifth goal of the World Cup in the 11th minute.

The answer was an old face, Voeller, who was recalled to duty after retiring from the national team two years ago. Voeller, who teamed with Klinsmann on the 1990 championship team, was nothing less than spectacular.

He gave Germany a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute when he took a pass from Lothar Matthaeus and fired a shot past a diving Preud’homme.

Belgium tied the score two minutes later when Georges Grun recovered a headed ball in front of the German goal and lofted it over Illgner’s head.

Then, Klinsmann and Voeller took over.

Germany took the lead for good in the 11th minute, the result of some fancy footwork. Klinsmann got the ball rolling when he back-heeled a pass to Voeller, who dribbled toward goal and then punched the ball left to a streaking Klinsmann, who beat Preud’homme to the right.

Voeller, who returned to the national team just before the tournament, scored again, in the 40th minute, when he headed in Thomas Haessler’s corner kick.