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Ziege recalls Niemi heroics

Posted on 26 March 2004  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

After the slightest of pauses - perhaps deliberate - it didn't take too long for Christian Ziege to recall how Antti Niemi once played such a crucial role in his international career.

The German star is likely to come up against Southampton's Finnish goalkeeper again when we travel to St Mary's on Saturday.

Turn the clock back two and half years and Niemi, then at Hearts, played the classical 'blinder' to secure a 1-1 draw for Finland in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Germany.

That allowed David Beckham to bend in his famous last-minute free-kick against Greece to take England straight to the 2002 finals in Japan and South Korea.

Once prompted, Christian soon remembered how Niemi kept Germany at bay - but was quick to point out how well things turned out in the end for his side as Germany reached the final.

"He was magnificent that day," said Christian. "He must have kept us out five or six times and I'm talking absolutely outstanding saves.

"I don't know if he's had a game like that again but it was unbelievable. It was basically down to him that we didn't qualify directly for the World Cup."

So what did he remember about that day? "I remember that David Beckham had lots of free-kicks, especially in the last five minutes and he then scored in the last minute," added Christian.

"Our game was finished and when it finished, we were going straight to the World Cup finals. The next minute, it was glory for Beckham and England. It turned out okay though."