Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Germans demolish lame Socceroos

Germany 4 Australia 0

Joachim Löw asked his team to "embarrass" opponents at this World Cup.

They duly did, looking potential winners as they outclassed Australia to such a degree it was the vanquished who were flattered by the scoreline. The old firm from 2006, Miroslav Klose and the outstanding Lukas Podolski, struck in the opening period, newer recruits Thomas Muller and Cacau in the second.



The embarrassment did not end there. Two Germans, Mesut Ozil and Cacau were cautioned for diving while the referee may feel sheepish when he sees a replay of the foul for which he dismissed Everton's Tim Cahill. It should have been a yellow, a point Australia will doubtless make when the disciplinary committee determines the length of Cahill's suspension. On the evidence of his team's performance a two-game ban will mean the end of his World Cup.



Australia were two-down and struggling when Cahill departed in the 55th-minute so the decision could not be said to have affected the result. Germany had already produced the outstanding 45 minutes of the World Cup so far, overrunning Australia with a scintillating display which made one wonder whether Michael Ballack's absence through injury may prove a blessing in disguise. Their fluid midfield movement bewildered an Australian side which looked old and ponderous. "Germany outplayed us, we had no answer," said Pim Verbeek, Australia's Dutch coach. "They showed they're a fantastic team."



"We were dominant from beginning to end," said Löw. "It was not perfect, there is room for improvement; Australia are not the ultimate benchmark."



Indeed. While Löw could omit Jerome Boateng, Manchester City's new £11m signing and striker Mario Gomez, Verbeek had to include Craig Moore, once of Rangers but now without a club, at centre-half, Carl Valeri of Serie B minnows Sassuolo, and no recognised striker. With Harry Kewell judged unfit to start, Hull City winger Richard Garcia, whose last senior goal was in August 2008 and who has never scored for Australia, was forced to lead the line, supported by Cahill. The team at least had the benefit of experience, all but Valeri and Garcia had played in their opening game of the 2006 finals. That, however, appears more an indictment of a lack of young talent coming through the Aussie ranks than the quality of this XI, only Valeri, 26 in August, was under 28 years of age. Germany, by contrast, included eight players aged 25 or under and their youthful freshness was evident.



The match was a huge disappointment to the majority of the crowd, for the spectacular Moses Mabhida Stadium was awash with green-and-gold. There are unlikely to have ever been as many inflatable kangaroos in one location. The Aussie support, who included John Travolta, a qualified pilot who flew himself and family here on his private jet, had reason for optimism as the Socceroos started brightly, Garcia having a shot blocked on the line by Philipp Lahm after Cahill caused confusion at a third-minute corner.



The German response was swift. Löw's faith in Klose and Podolski, the golden partnership of four years ago, has met with fierce criticism after the two managed five goals between them last season. In Klose's case that seemed justified when he was released on goal after six minutes and, showing all the conviction of Emile Heskey, shot straight at Mark Schwarzer. Podolski, however, was able to revive the spirit of 2006 two minutes later. Ozil slid a pass through to Muller and his cut-back cross was met with such brutal power by Podolski, Schwarzer could only help it into the net. Australia raged at the Mexican linesman but Muller's was a perfectly judged run.



Klose missed another sitter, from Podolski's cross, but found redemption after 26 minutes. Lahm delivered a teasing cross which drew Schwarzer from his goal; Klose broke in front to head in. It was his 11th World Cup goal, four short of Ronaldo's record.



Australia had no answer to Germany's midfield runners but they somehow reached the break without conceding again. Lucas Neill cleared off the line after Klose sent Ozil through; Sami Khedira headed over; Ozil then outpaced Neill to Podolski's pass and rounded Schwarzer but overran the ball.



With Cahill now leading the line, Australia desperately sought a way back at the start of the second period. They appealed in vain for a handball when the ball struck Per Mertesacker's arm in the box at close range and Holman went close with a snap shot. But any hope evaporated when Cahill was dismissed 10 minutes into the period. Seeking to recover possession he slid in on Bastien Schweinsteiger. It was clumsy rather than crunching and Cahill was astonished to be shown a red card.



Germany took full advantage. Muller, having already shot over from one flowing move, then took possession from Podoloski's driving run, left Scott Chipperfield on his backside, and followed namesakes Gerd, Dieter and Hansi in scoring for his country. The fourth goal soon followed, substitute Cacau scoring after Podolski had released Ozil on the left.



England take note. The team which qualifies second from their group are likely to meet Germany in the second round. It is an encounter best avoided.



Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Badstuber; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Muller, Ozil (Gomez, 73), Podolski (Marin 81); Klose (Cacua, 68).



Australia (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Wilkshire, Moore, Neill, Chipperfield; Valeri, Grella (Holman h-t); Emerton, Cahill, Culina; Garcia (Rukavytsya, 63).



Referee: M Rodriguez (Mexico).

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