Forget all the stereotypes about German efficiency and discipline; this is a new German team with a new breed of German footballer, and if tonight is anything to go by, they are going to be something special.
This was the first chance to see the new generation of the German national team in action, with youth the order of the day. German captain Philip Lahm is a veteran in this side at the age of 26. Eight of Germany’s starting line-up were 25 or under, with five of them having made their international debut within the past 18 months.
The game was captivating throughout, with Germany producing football of the highest quality, but it could all have been so different if Australia had taken their best chance early on. They twice came close to scoring from a third minute corner, as first Tim Cahill and then Richard Garcia had shots blocked on the line before the ball was scrambled to safety. Not long after, the tide turned, and the Germans didn’t look back.
Their first chance came when Miroslav Klose’s fierce drive from the edge of the box was parried by Schwarzer and crossed straight back into the box, where Mesut Ozil’s volley was deflected over for a corner. Soon after Ozil played in Muller, whose pullback evaded a number of players but was met by a stunning drive by Lukas Podolski from 15 yards out. Podolski’s shot, despite being within Schwarzer’s reach, was just too powerful, leaving Schwarzer with no chance and the score at 1-0.
Germany were a joy to watch, with their free flowing passing football cutting the Australians to shreds on numerous occasions. Australia are no mugs, as they proved four years ago at the 2006 World Cup, but they were made to look extremely ordinary by the Germans.
20 year old winger Thomas Muller was a constant threat down Germany’s right and it was his 21st minute cross that only just evaded the outstretched Podolski. Their next chance came when Mesut Ozil produced a delightful pass to slice open the Australian defence and play Podolski in down the German left. Podolski squared perfectly for Klose, who sidefooted high and wide when it looked easier to score.
Germany soon found themselves 2-0 up. From midway into the Australian half, Lahm whipped a tremendous cross into the box which was met by the head of Klose to power the ball into the roof of the net. Klose, who has five goals in each of his previous two World Cup campaigns, opened his account for this tournament in typical fashion.
They also made it 3-0 not longer after. Klose poked a pass through to Ozil, who carried the ball into the box and produced an impudent chip over Schwarzer that was a little too casual and allowed Neill the opportunity to get back and clear off the line.
Germany were now running riot, and came close to scoring again just before half-time. A fantastic interchange of passes culminated in Podolski playing a perfect through ball to Ozil, who reached the ball before the approaching Schwarzer and touched it past the ‘keeper and towards goal. Schwarzer certainly made contact with Ozil, but the young German decided against going down even as the ball ran out of play, probably owing more to already having been booked for diving that to a desperate desire to stay on his feet.
That was the final chance of note from a spellbinding first half, as Australia must have headed to their changing rooms thankful to be only 2-0 down.
The second half continued where the first half left off, with the Germans controlling affairs, although they were helped by the worst refereeing decision of the tournament so far; the sending off of Tim Cahill. It was undoubtedly a foul as Cahill slid in late on Bastian Schweinsteiger, but there was no studs up or reckless intent, so to see a red card shocked everybody, most of all Cahill who looked bewildered by the decision.
Germany spent the rest of the game in complete control, using their man advantage to great effect to score two more goals. The first was a beautiful move, as Schweinsteiger’s cheeky flick created space for Podolski, who carried the ball to the edge of the box where he played it to Muller, with the young World Cup debutant showing tremendous composure to cut onto his right foot and fire a low shot in off the post.
Two minutes later they had their fourth, as Badstuber played a fine ball down the left touchline to Ozil, who crossed to provide substitute Cacau, only on the pitch for a matter of seconds at that point, with a simple tap in to make it 4-0.
The final twenty minutes were played at relative walking pace, with Germany withdrawing Ozil and Podolski to join Klose for a rest on the bench, and Australia seemingly shell-shocked by what had just happened to them. The game finished 4-0, Germany sending out a warning to the rest of the potential winners that they are a real contender, while Australia have to put this defeat behind them and look to bounce back against Ghana.
Man of the Match: Thomas Muller. It was a toss-up between Muller and Ozil, who both enjoyed stunning World Cup debuts, but Muller just shades it. Not only did he claim a goal and an assist, but he also laid on numerous other chances for his teammates. The youngster who enjoyed a great season with Bayern Munich looks a huge prospect.
Moment of the Match: Germany’s third goal. The move that created the goal was superb, while the quality shown by the 20 year old Muller in his turn and finish was top draw. Muller looks a real prospect, linking fantastically with Ozil and Podolski to form what looks like one of the most exciting forward lines in the tournament.
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