German celebs divided on Euro 2004 hopes

11th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 June 2004, HAMBURG - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is upbeat while Nobel Laureate in literature Guenter Grass is not so sure about the German national football team's chances at Euro 2004.

11 June 2004

HAMBURG - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is upbeat while Nobel Laureate in literature Guenter Grass is not so sure about the German national football team's chances at Euro 2004.

In fact, most politicians, athletes, sports officials and other prominent Germans are having a hard time to make a prediction about how Rudi Voeller's team will do at the 12 June to 4 July tournament in Portugal.

Schroeder expressed his hope that Michael Ballack, Oliver Kahn and company will defy the critics like two years ago at the World Cup in Japan and Korea (where Germany lost 2-0 to Brazil in the final) and advance into another major event final.

"I hope that Germany, who are traditionally strong at big tournaments, reach the final," said Schroeder.

However, like many others the chancellor went on to name France and the Czech Republic as tournament favourites.

Six-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher was also upbeat.

"My prediction is that our team reaches the semi-finals. I will keep my fingers crossed for them. Germany are at their best at big tournaments."

Interior Minister Otto Schily went even a step further than his boss Schroeder, saying: "Germany will win the title. We have to start the tournament with this belief."

But - given the latest warmup results such as a 5-1 defeat in Romania and a 2-0 loss to Hungary, plus a tough group stage with the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Latvia - others are not so sure.

"Germany will not survive the first round," said Manfred von Richthofen, head of Germany's umbrella sports organisation DSB.

Grass struck a similar note, saying Germany was "not really tough opposition" for the other teams.

After all, the three-time Euro champions failed to survive the group stage the last time around in 2000, crashing out winless.

The group stage is traditionally tougher at Euro than at the World Cup, and some Germans are upbeat if Voeller's team makes the quarter- finals.

"If Germany gets through the group stage anything is possible," said national football icon Franz Beckenbauer, who lifted the 1972 trophy as a player.

But like Schroeder and others, Beckenbauer also named France as tournament favourites.

German football league boss Werner Hackmann named the opening 15 June encounter against the Dutch the key match.

"It all depends on how Germany play against the Dutch, not simply the result, but also the way the team presents itself," said Hackmann.

Schily, meanwhile, also looked two years ahead when he urged the team to think of the 2006 World Cup finals which Germany host.

"Germany should use the opportunity for some early World Cup 2006 publicity," said Schily.

DPA

Subject: German news

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