- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 10, 2006

MUNICH — What a start!

Germany kicked off the World Cup by beating Costa Rica 4-2 yesterday in the highest-scoring opener in tournament history.

The host nation’s performance could inspire Juergen Klinsmann’s young and inexperienced team a long way as it looks to add a fourth World Cup title.

“If the players want to go out tonight and have a beer, they can do it,” Klinsmann said.

Particularly Miroslav Klose, who eased the absence of captain Michael Ballack by scoring twice on his 28th birthday.

“That’s how I imagined this day, more or less,” Klose said. “Every opener is difficult and we are pleased that we won.”

Klose scored three goals in Germany’s opener in 2002, an 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia, but that wasn’t the opening match of the tournament. Germany then went on to reach the final, losing to Brazil.

This victory could provide a real boost, too.

“We wanted to play well and get the fans involved. We were a little bit nervous. We made some mistakes, but they happen,” Klinsmann said. “We can draw a lot of positives from this game.”

Paulo Wanchope also scored two goals for Costa Rica, while Philipp Lahm and Torsten Frings added the others for Germany.

Lahm, a defender still wearing a special brace after surgery on his left elbow three weeks ago, curved in a shot from the edge of the penalty area in the sixth minute to put Germany ahead. The ball squeezed into the upper right corner of the net after Lahm cut in and got the space he needed when Luis Marin slipped.

“I was lucky to hit the ball just right on my goal,” Lahm said.

That should have been the instant lift Germany needed, but Costa Rica stunned the hosts in the 12th minute. Veteran striker Wanchope beat the German offside trap and coolly slipped the ball past goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

Suddenly, it was 1-1, and Germany’s young and inexperienced defense was exposed.

“Everybody saw that we showed there are no easy rivals,” Wanchope said. “In spite of our limited resources, we made a good presentation.”

It didn’t take Germany long to recover, though.

Bernd Schneider broke through on the right side and passed to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who sent a crisp pass to the far post for Klose to knock in after 17 minutes.

It was the fastest three goals scored in a World Cup opener.

In the 61st, Klose’s header was saved by goalkeeper Jose Porras, but the Bundesliga’s leading scorer fired the rebound high into the net — and Germany seemed safe.

Not quite, as Wanchope got his second in the 73rd, again beating the offside trap. A through pass caught Germany’s central defenders Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder flat-footed. Wanchope shrugged off a late challenge by Arne Friedrich to beat Lehmann for the second time.

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