With nine goals in the first seven matches of the tournament, the world yearned for Germany to light up the World Cup on Sunday evening, at the very least with goals if not flair and creativity. But who would have thought the Germans, consistently organised yet never attractive, would be the team the rest of the world feared come Monday morning? A fine display against a weakened and completely incoherent Australia side it may have been, but certain facets of the German side we had been warned about came to the fore from the first minute, and others we didn’t expect reared their heads as well.
Firstly, the partnership of Lucas Podolski and Miroslav Klose. Between them they scored a paltry six goals this season in the Bundesliga, forcing some to predict they would be equally blunt in this tournament, if they even made the starting line-up at all. These pundits clearly forgot that this is the World Cup, and a Klose goal (especially with his head) is as likely as an England goalkeeper embarrassing himself, or an Australian kicking someone up in the air minutes into the tournament (more on that later on). The delivery and distribution of Philip Lahm, revelling in his new-found captain’s role, consistently provided Klose with chances, and despite only taking one of them his positioning and awareness should be noted by the coaches of Ghana and Serbia should they wish to go unpunished later in the group stages. Lucas Podolski performed equally well, with a thunderous shot too strong for even Mark Schwarzer to keep out giving Germany the lead, and the Polish-born front-man linked up with his strike-partner well throughout.
The absence of Michael Ballack was reported, at least in the English press, as a hammer-blow for Germany. The vilification of Kevin-Prince Boateng in the Germany press showed their obvious fears that a German World Cup side without Ballack stood little chance of progressing far in the tournament. However, his replacement in the form of Sami Khedira, linking up with midfield partner Bastian Schweinsteiger, performed excellently throughout Sunday evening. The pairing defended well when they had to, whilst focusing the rest of their attentions to distributing the ball to the flanks in the form of Podolski and Thomas Muller. Some might say Ballack’s absence may cost Germany later in the tournament against better sides than Australia, but the performance of his replacements last night gives Germany a huge lift as they progress in the tournament.
To coin a cliche, we save the best for last. Mesut Ozil of Werder Bremen was tipped by many to be a young star of the tournament after being key to Germany’s success in the Under-21 European Championship in 2009. The Turkish-born attacking midfielder proved his tipsters right, and was instrumental in much of Germany’s attacking play against Australia. Moving across the field behind the three strikers, Ozil proved difficult to pick up to the Australian defenders, allowing him time on the ball to play it into attacking positions. Somehow finishing the night without a goal, he assisted one, and played a part in two others, leading many to name him the man of an extraordinary match.
Australia were poor, and played half an hour with ten men, after Tim Cahill’s questionable sending-off for a challenge on Schweinsteiger. Their discipline was also dreadful throughout, with Lucas Neill a particular offender, at one point jumping with his knees raised into the back of Thomas Muller. Their decision to attack a German side who can pass the ball so quickly and efficiently proved their downfall, as Germany regularly counter-attacked at pace with ridiculous ease. Nothing can be taken away from a German performance of incredible class, however, and their young and fit squad will prove a match for anybody in this tournament.