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FEATURE Germans smell first Olympic football medal in 28 years By Ulf Zimmermann, dpa

Europe
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A convincing 4-0 quarter-final win over U21 vice-champions Portugal have the German footballers thirsting for more at the Rio Olympics. They want their first medal since then-West Germany won bronze at the Seoul Olympics 28 years ago.

Brasilia (dpa) - Veteran German coach Horst Hrubesch was ecstatic about his young football team after it convincingly beat Portugal 4-0 on Saturday to reach the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics.

"No matter what happens now, they have already paid their way," the 64-year-old trainer said.

The prospect now is that Germans will at the very least be playing for a bronze medal. The best case scenario is that it will be for the gold medal.

After a slow start as his young patchwork team gradually found its form, Hrubesch is pleased by the progress shown from match to match. "It all depends on how they approach the Olympics and what they do out on the pitch," he said. "They have succeeded in this regard."

Germany‘s next opponent in the semi-final in Sao Paulo will be the winner of the Denmark-Nigeria match, but in any event, the Germans know they have two more matches in the Olympics - and a chance for the first medal since then-West Germany won the bronze at the 1988 Seoul games.

"We are among the final four, which means we are here to the end," German football federation (DFB) sports director Hansi Flick said. "It‘s great how we have done it with such an impressive showing."

The impressive showing in front of 30,000 fans came on goals by Serge Gnabry (45th minute), Matthias Gintner (57), Davie Selke (75) and Philipp Max (87th minute). The Germans had to first survive a scare early on. After 50 seconds, Cologne keeper Timo Horn made a spectacular save on a shot by Carlos Mane. After that, Germany clearly dominated the action.

What was particularly edifying for Hrubesch was the fact that a year ago, his team was trounced by Portugal 5-0 in the semi-finals of the U21 tournament. The coach says this shows his team‘s growth and character.

Hrubesch, himself a veteran of tournament play - in 1980 he won the European Championship with West Germany - cautions his youngsters to play just one match at a time. "Today was the first final match. On Wednesday is the next final match," he said.

But defender Niklas Suele is already thinking well ahead, beyond the semi-final against either Denmark or Nigeria. "Now we want to be in the final, and hopefully, against Brazil," he said.

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