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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany Gets an Early Ticket Home

NEW YORK -- Suddenly, the World Cup has a baffling look.


Bulgaria and Sweden are in the semifinals, and defending champion Germany is gone, banished by the Bulgarians in a stunner that will rank as one of the great World Cup upsets.


"I think the world will realize that we have some very classy soccer players in Bulgaria," Bulgarian star Hristo Stoitchkov said after Sunday's victory.


Very classy, indeed. Bulgaria, ordinarily noted more for its weightlifters than soccer players, beat Germany 2-1, making every pre-tournament prediction look like utter nonsense.


Sunday's other quarterfinal ended with a pulsating finish, with Sweden beating Romania 5-4 in penalty kicks after regulation and overtime ended 2-2.


After Italy defeated Spain 2-1 and the Dutch fell to Brazil 3-2 in Saturday games, Italy now faces Bulgaria and Brazil squares off against Sweden in Wednesday's semifinals.


Bulgaria 2, Germany 1. Stoichkov, who plays in Spain for Barcelona, and Yordan Letchkov, who plays in Germany for Hamburg, teamed up to turn the game against Germany around and conjure a victory for the Bulgarian underdog in East Rutherford, New Jersey.


Things were going according to plan for the Germans when team captain Lothar Matthaeus, who tied the World Cup appearance record of 21 games, fired the Germans ahead from the penalty spot four minutes after half time.


But veteran German striker Rudi Voeller then had a goal disallowed and the Bulgarians broke out to score twice in three minutes. Stoichkov curled a free kick into the net from 25 meters in the 76th minute and Letchkov, who gave away the penalty, scored the winner with a brave diving header in the 79th.


For Germany, who used nine of the players who won the cup four years ago, it looked like the end of an era. It could be the beginning of one for the Bulgarians, who had failed to win any of 16 World Cup games before this tournament. Now it has beaten both of the 1990 finalists in one competition. As well as ousting the Germans, it downed Argentina 2-0 in round one.


Sweden 5, Romania 4. Goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli marked his record-equalling 115th appearance for Sweden by saving two spot-kicks in his side's penalty shoot-out victory over Romania in Stanford, California.


Sweden won the shoot-out 5-4 to reach the semifinals for the first time in 36 years. The ultimately thrilling quarter-final had ended 2-2 after extra time.


The deciding spot-kick came in the sixth round of penalties when Henrik Larsson scored to put Sweden 5-4 ahead.


Italy 2, Spain 1. Roberto Baggio fired Italy into the World Cup semifinals with a matchwinner two minutes from the end Saturday in Foxboro, Massachusetts.


Baggio broke clear to take a pass from substitute Giuseppe Signori, rounded Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta and fired into an empty net from an acute angle. Spanish defender Abelardo Fernandez raced back, but just missed blocking the shot.


Earlier, Dino Baggio scored with a spectacular 25-meter swerving shot in the 26th minute and Luis Perez Caminero leveled for the Spaniards in the 59th.


Brazil 3, Netherlands 2. Brazil battled past the Netherlands on Saturday in Dallas to keep the hopes of a soccer-mad nation alive for a record fourth World Cup.


Veteran defender Branco broke a 2-2 tie in the 81st minute with a searing 25-meter free-kick that passed the wall, split two other players and grazed the inside of the post before giving Brazil the decisive lead.


The Dutch played their best game in the World Cup but still came up short.


After a slow first half with both teams displaying too much respect and too little skills, Brazil came alive with two goals from strikers Romario in the 52nd minute and Bebeto in the 62nd, the last triggering Dutch charges of offside.


Within a minute, striker Dennis Bergkamp brought the Dutch within striking distance and Aron Winter equalized on a header from a corner in the 76th minute. (AP, MT, Reuters)