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By ESPN Staff

Media lash Klinsmann after Italy thrashing

BERLIN, March 2 (Reuters) - Germany's top newspapers laid into national soccer coach Juergen Klinsmann and his players on Thursday after their 4-1 humbling by Italy and predicted a debacle for the host nation at this summer's World Cup.

'Mamma mia we're bad!' the country's biggest-selling daily Bild trumpeted on its front page next to a picture of a grim-looking Klinsmann.

'Only 99 days to the World Cup and our national team is playing worse than ever before,' the paper said. 'If we play like that at the World Cup we'll be obliterated.'

A hesitant and toothless Germany never recovered from an opening blitz by the aggressive Italians in Florence, which gave the Azzurri a 2-0 lead inside seven minutes and saw them 3-0 in front at the break.

Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero, who tormented the Germans with his skill and vision, added a fourth early in the second half before German Chelsea defender Robert Huth thumped home a late consolation goal.

Bild awarded all Germany's players its worst rating of six, which stands for 'did not earn the money', while giving the impressive Italians a mixture of twos and threes, the equivalent of 'strong' and 'average' respectively.

'1:4 - Germany shrinks to a soccer dwarf,' was the headline in Thursday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The paper blamed Klinsmann's tactic of instructing his defenders to pressure the Italian midfield players higher up the pitch for the loss.

It also criticised Klinsmann for leaving the experienced Christian Woerns out of Germany's World Cup plans after the Borussia Dortmund defender blasted the national coach's management style in the media.

'The four-man defensive line played in such a way that the excluded Christian Woerns was the only German winner of the evening, albeit a sad one,' the paper said.

It was Germany's worst result against Italy since a 5-2 defeat in a friendly in 1939. The 1990 World Cup winners have not beaten a top class side since 2000 in a 17-match winless streak.

'We are all very disappointed,' said Klinsmann. 'It was a lesson for us above all in the first half. But it's over now and we cannot escape it. We have to face the criticism.'

Captain Michael Ballack said the team would be transformed when they took to the pitch to face the United States in a friendly in Dortmund on March 22.

'Thank God the next match is only three weeks away,' Ballack said. 'You will see a different German team then.'