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By ESPN Staff

Germany peaking at right time - Metzelder

BERLIN, July 2 (Reuters) - Germany have once again found a way to peak at the right time and have reaffirmed their status as a tournament team, defender Christoph Metzelder said on Sunday.

'We know that we can get better during the course of a tournament,' Metzelder told a news conference on Sunday when asked why Germany always seem to confound expectations of an early exit.

The World Cup hosts, who face Italy in the semi-finals on Tuesday, lost 4-1 in a friendly to the same opponents in March but have not been beaten since.

They again showed a few defensive frailties when defeating Costa Rica 4-2 in the opening game but have since beaten Poland, Ecuador and Sweden before eliminating Argentina on penalties.

'At the end of the day, no one can really say how good a team is until the first match of a tournament. I think all great teams in Germany have developed during their tournaments.

'They are the forks in the road for any team, a chance to grow and develop or not,' the 25-year-old added.

There are many theories about why German teams -- especially when they won the World Cup in 1954, 1974 and 1990 -- were able to win when even though they were not considered the favourites.

They have also reached the final on four other occasions, losing in 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002.

Some have credited a highly efficient organisation and infrastructure that takes care of everything and allows the players to focus on the game while others cite steady nerves.

'If it started snowing in the middle of the June somewhere in Mexico, you could be sure the equipment manager would have football boots for snow ready for us as soon as we need them,' former West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher said recently.

'It's perfect organisation. Everything is taken care of if you play for Germany. You only have to think about the match.'

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parriera drew sniggers among German journalists at a World Cup meeting in Duesseldorf in April when he predicted Germany would be among the contenders.

'I know they are not in a good mood right now but they will find the right path,' Parriera said. 'They always do.'

Germany had a poor run before the 2002 World Cup yet advanced to the final before losing to Brazil 2-0.

Metzelder said the 'tournament team' idea crystalised this year with their second group A match against Poland, which they won in stoppage time 1-0 thanks to the late goal.

'The Poland match sparked the euphoria for us,' he said. 'That was a key turning point. It was a hugely important experience.'