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Rooney duets with Ed Sheeran

The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Germany stunned by Italy, next faces U.S. in tuneup

FRANKFURT, Germany -- German soccer fans are in shock 99 days before their nation hosts the World Cup, trying to comprehend a 4-1 exhibition loss to Italy.

Ever-optimistic German coach Juergen Klinsmann is not deterred by the stunning loss Wednesday in Florence. In fact, he says he'll make no roster changes for the next match -- a World Cup tuneup against the United States later this month.

"We fully believe in this team. All the players who were there last night will be called back for the match against the United States," Klinsmann told reporters in Frankfurt after the team's return on Thursday. "They will get the chance to make amends."

Captain Michael Ballack promised as much.

"You will see a different Germany in Dortmund," he said, referring to the March 22 game against the U.S.

The Americans also played Wednesday, beating Poland 1-0 on a snowy night in Kaiserslautern. One of the Americans' group rivals at the World Cup is Italy, while Germany has Poland in its group.

Klinsmann said his team never recovered after conceding two goals in the first 7 minutes.

"But there are no excuses. You can lose against Italy, but we expect redemption, we want to see a reaction against the United States," Klinsmann said. "This team is strong enough to overcome such setbacks. It's stable enough to put it behind. With positive thinking, there will be no problems. We have to look ahead."

Klinsmann said one of the reasons for his team's poor performance was that some of the players are not starters for their foreign clubs. He said tactical errors can be fixed when Germany goes into training camp before the World Cup.

"We firmly believe that we will be in the tournament until the end," Klinsmann said.

But in the media, there was no talk about another title for the three-time champion.

"Shuddering," commented the mass-circulation newspaper Bild.

"Mamma mia, we are bad," said the influential newspaper, which has been critical of Klinsmann, especially his decision to continue to live in California.

"With 100 days left until the World Cup, we wanted to know what's hiding in our team. The shocking 4-1 loss in Florence gave us the brutal answer: nothing," Bild said.

Bild rated all German players with the lowest-possible mark of six -- equivalent to "not having earned their pay."

The Kicker magazine called the game a "disaster" for Germany and said it had been humiliated. It also called Klinsmann's defensive game plan "naive" -- saying the defenders were playing too far up front.

Defense has been Klinsmann's problem for a long time. Klinsmann ruled out a return for experienced Borussia Dortmund defender Christian Woerns.

"No. He was disrespectful to the coach," Klinsmann said.

Woerns criticized Klinsmann after being left out of the squad to face Italy and the coach later said he wouldn't be called up again.

Germany has not won against a top-class team for more than five years.

"Germany shrinks to a soccer dwarf," wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.