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1. A second headline
June 21st, 2006 1:52PM

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Klose is brimming with confidence, by far the most vital element in a scorer's psyche. With him as a pointman, the more mobile Lucas Podolski can check back and roam underneath to latch onto balls played by Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Bernd Schneider, who is one of several role players neatly slotted into the system by Klinsmann. Torsten Frings busily cleans up loose balls and kills opposing attacks with tackles and fouls.

Schweinsteiger usually drifts to the left and is the more aggressive of the two outside midfielders. Schneider can also get to the line but often bides his time as the ball is played on the other side of the field and slides forward at the right moment.

His clever first-time lob provided Klose with a chance to hit a vicious volley over the crossbar, and he flew down the flank before centering a low ball Podolski stuck into the net for the third goal.

Klose's skied miss might have intimidated a striker stuck in a dry spell, but he persisted. Later in the match after he'd scored twice and was one goal short of a hat trick, Klose broke through on the right but instead of shooting instead squared a ball for Podolski. The shot was saved, and Podolski, while frustrated, applauded the opportunity provided by his teammate.

Ecuador played most of the match at half-speed, conserving energy for their round-of-16 match Sunday against England, which twice took the lead but had to settle for a 2-2 tie with Sweden. Germany plays the Swedes Saturday in Munich and off this performance must be confident.

Klinsmann has stuck with Mertesacker, a teammate of U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo at Hannover, while snubbing veteran Christian Worns and assigning Jens Novotny to the bench. At nearly 6-foot-5, Mertesacker appears gangly and awkward, but he turned nimbly to hit a half-volley across goal that Schweinsteiger set up for Klose's second score, won a lot of balls in the air, and stepped up to strip away passes as opponents prepared to collect them.

Steel in the middle has been missing in the German lineup since Klinsmann took over two years ago. The back line has been as leaky as the stadium roof that spilled rainwater onto the field at the Confederations Cup last year, and dark mutterings were heard after Paulo Wanchope twice stormed through offside traps for goals in Germany's 4-2 opening-day win over Costa Rica.

The defense toughened up in a nervous 1-0 win over Poland and was seldom threatened by Ecuador, although Philipp Lahm, perhaps the best attacking left back in the competition of European vintage, slipped a couple of times to leave his corner exposed, and right back Arne Freidrich is not universally acclaimed.

The world knows about goalie Jens Lehmann, Ballack, Klose and Podolski and their coach, Klinsmann. But Germany's ultimate fate depends on Schneider, Metersacker, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Frings, the supporting members in Klinsmann's cast.



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