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WORLD CUP OPENS WITH A SNOOZER

SHARE WORLD CUP OPENS WITH A SNOOZER

If soccer is going to make inroads as a major sport in the United States, it will need more ammunition than Germany or Bolivia provided Friday in the World Cup opener.

"We were not happy with our performance," said Juergen Klinsmann, whose goal in the 61st minute gave the defending champion Germans a 1-0 victory. "It was not that exceptional or extraordinary. What is important is that we won the first game."Klinsmann blamed the oppressive heat for the sloppiness.

"Although we have trained for the heat, once you get out on the playing field, it is a different game," Klinsmann said. "It was difficult to get a rhythm under those brutal conditions."

Bolivia coach Xabier Azkargorta wasn't accepting any alibis about the 90-degree temperatures.

"We always said we shouldn't have to look for an excuse like the weather. We should be all true supermen," he said.

There were no supermen and few super plays, something not unusual for a World Cup opener. The game often was brutally rough, with six yellow card warnings and one ejection.

But it also had a flash of the majesty that makes soccer the world's most popular sport.

That spark came on the goal.

German captain Lothar Matthaeus trapped the ball in midfield and, seemingly in the same motion, sent a long, perfect pass to Thomas Haessler. Goalkeeper Carlos Trucco came out to intercept the pass and slipped as Haessler nudged the ball to Klinsmann.

There was nobody between Klinsmann and the net and he tapped the ball home.

"It was almost a goal by chance," said Klinsmann, Germany's star scorer. "Once I got the ball, there was almost nothing else I could do wrong."

The pace had picked up in the second half, benefitting the Germans. And the strategy of moving up sweeper Matthaeus to midfield led to the goal.

That set thousands of German fans to chanting and singing as their champions seized control. And kept it, becoming the first defending champion to win its opener since England in 1970.

"First and foremost, I would say we've won three points and we've won the game," German coach Berti Vogts said. "As world champion we were under a lot of pressure."

So soccer, by far the most popular sport everywhere but in this country - the opener was watched on television by some 750 million people - brought its showcase to America. The sellout crowd of 63,117 seemed to enjoy the action.

The game was preceded by the usual theatrics accompanying Super Bowl halftime shows, complete with performances by Diana Ross, Richard Marx, Jon Secada and a short speech from President Clinton.

"Soccer is now a universal language that brings us all together," Clinton said.

South Korea 2, Spain 2, tie

At Dallas, South Korea, a major underdog to mighty Spain and a 3-1 loser when they met four years ago, scored twice in the final six minutes to gain a 2-2 tie.

Seo Jung Won, a second-half substitute, scored the tying goal on a right-footed drive from 12 yards in the final minute of regulation play to give South Korea only its second tie in nine World Cup games. The South Koreans never have won.

For Spain, Seo's blast past substitute goalie Canizares took some of the luster off a major comeback of its own.

It had to play three-quarters of the match with 10 men after captain Miguel Angel Nadal was ejected for tackling a South Korean player from behind on a breakaway.

But South Korea couldn't take advantage at first, and the half ended 0-0 before Spain took a 2-0 lead on a pair of dazzling goals in a five-minute span just after halftime.

Julio Salinas struck with a short right-footed kick at 5:10 of the second half, and Juan Goikoetxea, who followed with a header into the lower right-hand corner at 10:25. Goikoetxea' pass from the right flat had set up the goal by Salinas.