Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan, 21.06.2002
Ballack 39. / –
Through to the last eight for a record fourteenth time following their narrow second phase victory against Paraguay, Germany would set up a quarter-final encounter with the United States – a team that had improved dramatically since the two sides’ previous World Cup meeting in France four years earlier.
Berti Vogts’ German side had beaten the USA 2-0 in Paris en route to topping their first phase group in 1998, but a year later under Erich Ribbeck the Nationalmannschaft would find themselves at the wrong end of the scoreline against an opponent that had for a long time been seen as a soft touch. In February 1999 the Americans would dish out a 3-0 thrashing in a friendly in Jacksonville, while five months later they would stroll to an easy 2-0 win over a dire German eleven in the FIFA Confederations Cup tournament in Brazil.
Rudi Völler’s side would be favourites coming into the match, but the gap between the two sides was at best negligible. Germany had been unbeaten in the tournament and had racked up a dozen goals, but the USA had pulled out two stunning performances to beat Portugal in the group phase before disposing of a talented Mexican outfit that had finished above both Italy and Croatia to show that their first phase form had been no fluke.
Having won their last two encounters against the Mannschaft Bruce Arena’s side could also have claimed to have held a slight psychological advantage; having surpassed all of their pre-tournament expectations, they also had nothing to lose. Völler meanwhile would find himself under pressure to take his team into the last four for the first time since 1990 – when he was part of the squad that would go on to win the tournament.
The German coach would go back to the 3-3-2-2 formation employed during the three first phase matches, but would not recall Carsten Ramelow – once again available after serving his one-match ban following his red card against Cameroon. Borussia Dortmund’s Sebastian Kehl would instead make his first start in place of Marko Rehmer alongside Thomas Linke and Christoph Metzelder, while Torsten Frings would move back into the three-man defensive midfield unit alongside the recalled Dietmar Hamann and Christian Ziege. Further up the field Michael Ballack would once again partner the roving Bernd “Schnix” Schneider, while second-phase goalscorer Oliver Neuville would retain his place up front alongside Miroslav Klose.
In front of a crowd of just over thirty-seven thousand at Ulsan’s Munsu Cup Stadium, Scottish referee Hugh Dallas led the two sides out on what what a typically balmy South Korean evening. The Germans would once again be in their traditional white and black, while their US counterparts would be kitted out in their change strip of dark blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks.
The scene was set for what would be a close and hard-fought encounter between two fairly evenly-matched sides.
Michael Ballack rises above the United States defence to score the winning goal in Ulsan
The Mannschaft could very well have wrapped things up by half-time and would have been clear at 2-0 had Klose’s header not hit the base of the upright, but in the end they were very lucky to survive the concerted second-half siege on their goal by their energetic and spirited opponents. The US could count themselves unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty for Torsten Frings’ handball on the line, but having got away with a similar incident themselves against Mexico in their previous match there would be few complaints after the match. Results can often hinge on small moments of luck, and it is fair to say that Völler’s side had ridden theirs.
Then there was Oliver Kahn, without whom the discussion of off-the-line handballs would have been largely irrelevant. On more than one occasion the German Torwart would keep his side where they wanted to be, particularly in the second half when there seemed to be wave after wave of blue and white bearing down on his goal. Michael Ballack may have scored the winning goal, but Kahn had secured the victory with yet another confident and assured performance between the posts.
Through to a record tenth World Cup semi-final, Germany would find themselves up again the biggest surprise of the tournament – hosts South Korea.
Germany: Kahn (c) – Linke, Kehl, Metzelder – Frings, Hamann, Ziege – Schneider (60. Jeremies), Ballack – Klose (88. Bierhoff), Neuville (80. Bode)
United States: Friedel – Sanneh, Pope, Berhalter – Hejduk (65. Jones), Mastroeni (80. Stewart), O’Brien, Eddie Lewis – Reyna – McBride (58. Mathis), Donovan
Referee: Hugh Dallas (Scotland)
Assistants: Philip Sharp (England), Ali Al-Traifi (Saudi Arabia)
Fourth Official: Mark Shield (Australia)
Yellow Cards: Kehl, Jeremies / Eddie Lewis, Pope, Reyna, Mastroeni, Berhalter
Red Cards: – / –