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Monday, 03 July 2006

3349: World Cup 2006: The rise and r

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by : Sam Cullen

As Germany beat tournament favourites Argentina on Friday, another hero emerged among their ranks.

Jens Lehmann.

The pressure Lehmann must have felt coming into this tournament would have been huge, after finally displacing Oliver Kahn as Germany’s No1, all eyes would be on him at the World Cup, in his home country, broadcast across the world.

So far he hasn’t let them down and on Friday, stopped two of Argentina’s penalties, which helped give the psychological edge to Germany as the shoot out progressed.

Two years ago, Jens Lehmann being in a German side in the semi finals of a World Cup would have seemed totally implausible.

Arsenal’s “invincible” season made many legends at Highbury but at that stage the jury was still out on the volatile German. He had shown himself to be easily annoyed and also made notable errors in several matches, most memorably on the day the title was secured, where his histrionics gifted Spurs a penalty and denied Arsenal a further 2 points.

At that time, he looked like the weak link in an incredibly strong team.

Meanwhile, later that summer, Rudi Voller resigned from his job as manager of Germany in Euro 2004, due to a dismal campaign in Portugal which saw them eliminated in the group stages.

It then proceeded to get worse before it got better for both Lehmann and the German national side.

After their record breaking run was cut short at Old Trafford, Arsenal began to struggle badly and looked a shadow of their former selves. After the last minute Neil Mellor winner at Anfield on 28th November, Arsene Wenger wielded the Axe to Lehmann and the German found himself playing second fiddle with his German squad place in jeopardy.

The newly appointed German coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have been sparred the hassle of qualification, but there were still tribulations for the German manager. These included the local media being far from happy with him not living in Germany permanently and Franz Beckenbauer’s frequent complaints.

This last season saw a huge turnaround for Lehmann who was an ever present in the league for Arsenal. Many saw his inspirational displays in goal as constantly bailing out the struggling and inexperienced Gunners.

His reward finally came in April 2006 when he finally usurped Kahn to become Germany’s No1.
Klinsmann also has seen a turnaround as the once hostile media have now warmed to him, and even Beckenbauer has spoken positively about the former Spurs man.

If Germany were to win the World Cup next Sunday with Jens leading the team out, then it would such a dramatic turnaround of fortunes for both player and country on almost Rocky-esque proportions.

Well they do always say never underestimate the Germans…but do we listen?

Sam Cullen
1 July 2006

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