This 2010 version of “Die Mannschaft” is very different from previous outings. They still have the physical presence and mental focus but they are now fielding a young team (one of the youngest in the World Cup; interestingly, Australia has one of the oldest) where flair and technique is definitely a part of the mix (probably because of a more international flavor the Germans have these days in their national squad).
Schweinsteiger now dedicates himself more to defensive duties, Özil is the maestro of the team (Ballack’s absence due to injury has made it this way), Müller and Khedira are young promises, while Klose and Podolski always shine more for their national side than for their home clubs.
With teams still trying to implement their strategy it was actually Australia which had the first chance to score, in a corner kick in the 3rd minute. Garcia tried to make it count but Lähm (another important piece in the German puzzle) was in the right spot.
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This was the best Australia had to offer in the game as the Germans took solid control from there until the end of the match. Essentially, Australia made two mistakes; firstly they had a system in place designed to try to destroy the German game (the Aussies fielded no striker and had the midfield incredibly over-populated), and secondly their slow defense (Moore is 34 and Neill is 32, their center backs) tried to spring the offside trap time and time again, to no avail.
In the 8th minute Özil showed his technique and field vision, passed to Müller who then assisted Podolski, who hammered it in. No chance for Schwarzer and Germany was up 1-0, due to a well-designed and fast play.
Germany kept dominating and controlling the ball well, while deciding, here and there, to increase the speed of play and go vertical. Klose and Podolski both missed chances but Klose would not miss in the 27th minute; Lähm made a very long cross that seemed destined to be easily solved by either a defender or the Aussie keeper, but Klose anticipated both and scored a wonderful header.
The Socceroos were clearly devastated by half-time, not knowing how to respond. Their “anti-game” system didn’t work and they found themselves down 2-0 to a well-disciplined squad that knows how to control the ball.
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In the 48th minute the Australians called for a penalty as Mertesacker touched the ball, inside the German box, with his hand. No penalty was awarded and it seems the play didn’t occur on purpose.
If the Aussies had any chance to try to turn things around then the 57th minute sealed their fate. Tim Cahill was sent off with a direct red card, for tackling Schweinsteiger from behind. World Cup referees have been thoroughly instructed to show no leniency for this kind of fouls (tackles from behind), but this decision by the Mexican referee Camargo seemed a bit too harsh. For Cahill, one of the best Australian players, this likely means the end of his WC participation, as a red card is equivalent to a suspension of 2 games.
Germany then continued to manage the game as they saw fit. They had some more chances and, in the 68th, they were able to score another great goal. Podolski assisted Müller, who was able to shake off the defender and place the shot away from the goalkeeper’s grasp. Arguably the best of Germany’s 4 goals.
Still time for Cacau (a player born in Brazil, who acquired German citizenship about a year ago) to come in and score. Özil made the assist and Cacau was able to score with a precise one-timer, in just the second time he touched the ball, after coming in (he replaced Klose).
Marin and Gomez also came in, to rotate the German squad, but the final score stayed at 4-0. A well-deserved victory for Germany. What have we learned? That Germany is certainly one of the strong favorites to win it all. They also showed what many people were hinting: the overall team is far better than the sum of its parts. The Germans don’t have nearly as many bonafide stars (even more so after losing Ballack) as other national teams do, but they are certainly a very strong team.
After Argentina’s strong showing, England disappointed, but Germany certainly did not.
Next for Germany: with 3 points already under their belts, the Germans face Serbia next (June 18th). Serbia were an utter disappointment against Ghana, so look for Germany to have their way once again. If they beat Serbia they can then perhaps rotate the entire team for its third game against Ghana.
Next for Australia: they need to improve the image they left on the field against Germany today and they also have to beat Ghana (June 19th). This game against the African side is certainly a must-win for Australia, if they are to have a chance to get past the group stage.