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It’s One for Books as Germany Rallies to Tie Yugoslavia, 2-2

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Berti Vogts was beginning to seethe. For a half-hour he had watched Yugoslavia systematically carve apart Germany’s defense, and as a former defender himself, not to mention a World Cup winner, Vogts was furious.

And then the solution came to him.

The way to stop the Yugoslavs from making a mockery of the European champions in Lens was to send a 37-year-old, once considered washed-up player into the game.

Enter Lothar Matthaeus, stepping from the pages of history straight into the World Cup record books.

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And just like that, Yugoslavia went from looking invincible to suddenly looking decidedly vulnerable. A 2-0 lead that sent Coach Slobodan Santrac into a high-stepping sideline dance, eventually turned into a 2-2 tie as Germany scored twice in the final 16 minutes.

“We were down and out, but in the final 25 minutes we showed we were able to transform a defeat into virtually a victory,” a much-relieved Vogts said.

“For around 60 or 65 minutes, I was very angry with the players. Some of them didn’t seem to be aware that we are at the World Cup. It was only by making a few adjustments that we managed to achieve what had seemed impossible.”

Playing skillful and technically superb soccer, Yugoslavia dominated the first half. It took the lead in the 13th minute when Predrag Mijatovic sent a crossing pass into the goal area, intended for 19-year-old Dejan Stankovic.

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Stankovic and German goalkeeper Andreas Kopke both rushed at the ball, which hit Koepke’s knee, then struck the right post and bounced into the net before a desperate Jens Jeremies could clear it.

Stankovic claimed the goal, saying he had gotten a foot to it before it went in. That seemed doubtful, but his name went on the score sheet.

Trailing, 1-0, Vogts sent Matthaeus into the game in the second half. The moment Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning captain stepped on the field he tied one World Cup record and broke another.

It was the fifth World Cup that Matthaeus had played in, tying the record held for 32 years by Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal, and it was his 22nd World Cup match, breaking the mark held jointly by Germany’s Uwe Seeler, Poland’s Wladyslaw Zmuda and Argentina’s Diego Maradona.

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“The coach told me 10 minutes before halftime that he was going to put me on in the second half,” Matthaeus said. “I was happy, of course, but it was an unusual position for me to be in. I’m not used to being a substitute in such an important game.”

But he had not been on the field five minutes when Yugoslavia doubled its lead, courtesy of a horrendous goal-keeping mistake by Koepke. Darko Kovacevic sent a hard, low shot across the goal mouth and Koepke seemed to have the ball covered but it slipped beneath his body. Dragan Stojkovic, the inspiration behind Yugoslavia’s fine play, was on hand to side-foot it into the unguarded net from a yard out.

After that, Yugoslavia’s luck ran out.

In the 74th minute, Michael Tarnat, who had only entered the game seven minutes earlier, hit a free kick that deflected into the net off the leg of Yugoslavia’s Sinisa Mihajlovic.

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That made it 2-1 and the Germans were suddenly in full cry.

Their efforts were rewarded in the 80th minute when Oliver Bierhoff shoved aside Slavisa Jokanovic, then leaped high to strike a powerful header into the back of the Yugoslav net off a right-wing corner kick.

“I am happy and sad,” said Santrac. “It was a good result, but it was a pity they managed to level [the score] right at the end. We know the German team well and we knew they wouldn’t lie down until the final whistle, even when they were 2-0 down.”


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