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Great observer Lehmann gets active role at last

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, June 7 (Reuters) Jens Lehmann has had to wait a long time for his first active experience of a World Cup and the 36-year-old Germany goalkeeper is not about to let the weight of public expectation spoil the moment.

Lehmann will be number one for the hosts when they play Costa Rica in the opening match in Munich on Friday, after winning a long and at times bloody personal battle with Oliver Kahn.

Germany began their last World Cup campaign with an 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia four years ago and with Costa Rica in poor form in the build-up German media are talking up the chances of a similar result.

Lehmann would rather see a more measured start from the Germans, who also have Group A games against Poland and Ecuador as they seek a fourth World Cup triumph.

''You shouldn't attach too much importance to the opening match,'' Lehmann said at a news conference today.

''We just need to take the first small step towards the last 16.

That's the only important thing.

''Form is something that evolves over the course of the tournament. I don't think anyone is at 100 percent in the opening game.'' Lehmann should know what he is talking about, given that he has observed four major tournaments from close up.

He was part of the squad for the World Cup campaigns at 1998 and 2002 and at the European Championship in 2000 and 2004. He never played so much as a minute in any of them.

His promotion to the number one slot is reward for an outstanding season in England with Arsenal, albeit one that ended sadly for him with his sending off early on in the Champions League final defeat by Barcelona.

''I'm not thinking about those other tournaments from years ago,'' he said today, the day before the German squad fly down to Munich for the opening match. ''It would just disturb me.

''I can tell you I'm not nervous, anxious or afraid. I'm looking forward to the game. The pressure is the result of the level of expectation and what the media projects but we know we have to play well and get the result.'' REUTERS DH BST2002

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