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Injury-hit Germany beaten 1-0 by Italy
( 2003-08-21 09:29) (Agencies)

Italy outclassed Germany 1-0 in an absorbing friendly international on Wednesday as the visitors' awesome strike force overcame their injury-depleted hosts.

Christian Vieri (2nd R) of Italy celebrates his goal with his team mate Alessandro Del Piero (L) Francesco Totti (2nd L) and Mauro Camoranesi during their international friendly soccer match against Germany in Stuttgart August 20, 2003.[Reuters]
There had been keen interest in how a weakened German defence would deal with the combined talents of three of the world's great strikers, Juventus' Alessandro del Piero, Roma's Francesco Totti and Inter Milan's Christian Vieri.

Sure enough, it was a tightly coordinated passing movement between del Piero and Totti running rings around the German back four which put Vieri through to hammer home from just inside the box in the 17th minute.

Totti and Vieri combined again in the 23rd minute but Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen said the goal by del Piero was offside.

The Germans, missing eight key players, including midfield creative forces Michael Ballack and Sebastian Deisler, had a weak first half and found it difficult to hold on to the ball.


However, they were transformed in the second half with better organisation at the back after Hertha Berlin's Marko Rehmer was brought on for Christian Woerns and Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl came on for Carsten Ramelow.

"It's always bitter to lose an international at home. We played well in the second half but we didn't make the most of our chances," said German coach Rudi Voeller, who played for Roma between 1987 and 1992 and has an Italian wife.

"You must remember Italy are a world-class team. You can never fully shut down players like Del Piero, Totti or Vieri."

The German midfield piled on the pressure in the second half, ensuring a busy night for Juventus's Gianluigi Buffon.

Italian trainer Giovanni Trapattoni said Germany probably deserved a draw based on their second-half performance.

"In the second half we ran out of steam a bit as we're not in top form yet because the season doesn't start until September," he said.

There was controversy in the run-up to the game because of suggestions by Oliver Kahn that many of the German team lacked sufficient commitment to the national side, pleading "injured left toes" instead of choosing to take part in a friendly.

With six World Cups between them, pride was the main thing at stake in the clash, but Voeller was aware that his side's easy run to the final of the World Cup in 2002 masked a major dip in form for the three-time world champions.

Defeat means Germany have not beaten a top international side since October 2000 when they beat England 1-0 at Wembley.

Germany top Group Five on 11 points and next travel to Iceland in European Championship qualifying on September 6 before hosting Scotland four days later.

Italy are second in Group Nine but can go top if they beat leaders Wales, who lost on Wednesday to Serbia and Montenegro, on September 6 at home. They then travel to Serbia and Montenegro four days later.

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