TODAY'S ACTION at www.russiantvonline.com - Saturday, June 19, 2004
Latvia vs. Germany
PORTO, Portugal (AP)— Kevin Kuranyi is getting help up front, and the German striker has set an ambitious goal for Saturday's match against Latvia.
"I think we have to create a lot of pressure and score many goals," Kuranyi said Thursday.
Kuranyi's coach, Rudi Voeller, would be happy just to get three points - no matter how - in the Group D game.
Germany, the World Cup runner-up and three-time European champion, produced a strong performance in its opener Tuesday against the Netherlands, but conceded a late goal and settled for a 1-1 draw.
The Czech Republic rallied to beat Latvia 2-1 and leads the group with three points. Germany needs to win against Latvia in Porto to get close to securing a spot in the quarterfinals. The Dutch and the Czechs clash in Aveiro, also Saturday.
"We have to be more threatening in front of the goal, we have to be a little bit more offensive and there will be a second striker," Voeller said, without revealing who will be Kevin Kuranyi's partner. Kuranyi was the only striker against the Dutch.
"That was the right tactic against the Dutch but against Latvia we have to apply more pressure," he said.
Kuranyi said he didn't have a preferred partner, but it was likely to be the experienced Fredi Bobic. To make space, defensive midfielder Frank Baumann is likely to move to the bench.
Voeller cautioned his players against overconfidence.
"Yes, we had a good game against the Netherlands, but we didn't win and nothing has been decided in our group. We are exactly where we were at the start of the tournament.
"Latvia is not here by accident. Everyone is talking about Sweden's great 5-0 win against Bulgaria here. Sweden lost only one qualifying game and that was against Latvia. Then they beat Turkey, third-place finisher at the World Cup, in the playoff.
"I was by chance staying in the same hotel in Istanbul and by talking to them I saw that they were very sure of themselves, they were convinced they would win. They earned their place here, they got no presents," Voeller said.
Central defender Jens Nowotny skipped Thursday's closed training session with a minor knee problem, while another defender, Arne Friedrich, was rested by Voeller. Nowotny was back in training Friday and declared fit to face Latvia.
Maris Verpakovskis, the "Riga Rocket," scored the Latvian goal against the Czechs and said he could do it again.
"I am looking forward to the game. Germany has a strong defense but I think I can score against them," said the Dynamo Kiev striker, who had six goals in qualifying to take his nation to its first major tournament.
The Germans found out Thursday that their captain and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn has a Latvian grandmother.
According to Bild newspaper, Kahn's grandfather, Rolf, was a Baltic German working for the German navy in the Latvian port of Liepaja. He married a Latvian woman, Erika Alksnis. Kahn's father, also named Rolf, was born in Liepaja and the family went to Germany during World War II, settling in Karlsruhe.
Kahn, who turned 35 on Tuesday, confirmed the story.
"It's true, I do have a certain link to Latvia ... but sorry, there won't be any presents Saturday," he said.