Watch out Argentina, Germany are coming. That was the message emanating from Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Tuesday evening when the three-time champions ran roughshod over Ecuador and pumped in three goals. Their exhibition of delightful passing the other day, resulting in a tennis-like scoreline, had made Argentina the team to watch in Germany. After their final group A game, though, the hosts have made an equally emphatic statement.
Having topped their group, Germany are expected to make the quarter finals. And, if Argentina play to form and top group C, they should also have no problem advancing to the last eight. That would set up a classic clash and, take it from me, the Germans won’t be easy to topple.
Tuesday’s encounter pitted two teams which had already qualified for the last-16, but there was a battle to be won for the Germans. They were looking for a win as a draw would have relegated them to No. 2 position. And win they did in style, outplaying the South Americans with a power-packed and speedy display.
Ballack, Schweinsteiger, Schneider, Frings, Klose and Podolski all contributed to set up the German party. Ballack was a tad cautious to start with, clearly conscious of avoiding a second booking which would have ruled him out of the next game. The captain was fouled thrice but didn’t retaliate once.
With every passing minute, Ballack blossomed more and more. His first good ball was in the 35th minute but Podolski couldn’t do justice to it. Then, two minutes before half-time, the Bayern Munich medio showed his true class. Like a magician, he disdainfully scooped the ball forward to prise open the Ecuadorean defence. Klose followed the ball, screened Espinoza, used his thigh to carry the ball past ’keeper Mora and pushed it into an open goal. It was one of the best striker’s goal you would ever wish to see.
Klose had earlier given Germany the lead after three minutes. Schweinsteiger followed a ball played wide from the goalmouth, passed it back for Klose to place it into the deep corner of the far post. A typically opportunistic finish by a goal-hungry striker.
Klose now has four goals in this competition and nine in all, in the finals. Who knows what his tally will be at the end of this World Cup! No doubt he’s a key man in Klinsmann’s scheme of things.
The coach must have been doubly pleased to see Podolski get into the scoring sheet after two barren games. That was another memorable moment in the game, coming 12 minutes after half-time.
As an Ecuadorean foray came to grief on a defender’s body, the Germans launched a deadly counter. Frings to Schweinsteiger, Schweinsteiger to Schneider, Schneider to Podolski. The young Poland-born striker stretched his right foot out for a perfect connection.
We had marvelled at Argentina’s 24-pass goal, here was a four-pass move with the same result, but more dangerous and almost unstoppable. It was good to see Klose not going for a hattrick and playing for the team. It told me how united and determined this German team is. Quite in contrast to the struggling French side.
The Ecuadoreans moved forward quite a few times but just couldn’t penetrate the German defence. Robert Huth, that giant of a central defender, stood like a rock. And when some snap long-rangers were tried out in the second half, Lehmann rose to the occasion every time.