June 24: The Kaiser didn’t invite any of them to the clandestine match, but this is one wedding gift from the pincer pair he wouldn’t have the heart to turn down.
On a day Franz Beckenbauer’s secret wedding sent ripples across the World Cup firmament, Germany gifted him a 2-0 victory over Sweden in the first knockout match of this edition and booked itself a place in the quarter-finals.
‘Der Kaiser’ Beckenbauer, who led West Germany when it won the cup in 1974 and was coach when it lifted the title in 1990, would have been proud the way the lethal strike force of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose wrapped up the game in 12 minutes.
Podolski scored in the fourth and 12th minutes, with forward partner Klose playing a big role in both.
Germany, the three-times champion that has been performing with great power and belief and is backed by extraordinary support, will meet Argentina or Mexico in the last eight in Berlin on Friday.
Pumped up by the superlative performance and egged on by wave after wave of German spectators who chanted “Berlin, Berlin, we’re going to Berlin”, captain Michael Ballack said his side was ready for anything. “With such performances, we don’t need to hide from anyone.”
Among the spectators were Beckenbauer, 60, the head of this Cup’s organising committee, and the bride, formerly known as Heidi Burmester, 39.
Sweden was out-fought and, for spells, out-thought. They had a man sent off and Henrik Larsson missed a second-half penalty on an afternoon they will wish to forget.
Hundreds of thousands of Germans and Swedes clad in their national colours had packed the Bavarian capital of Munich for the match even though only a fraction had tickets for the 66,000-seat Allianz Arena.
The two teams share a rich 95-year football rivalry ' starting with their first confrontation in 1911 in which Germany emerged the winner ' and a similar offensive-minded style of play. West Germany knocked Sweden out in the quarter-finals when they last met at a World Cup in 1974 while Sweden won an epic 1958 semi-final clash.
Today, stunned by the Germans’ high-tempo opening spell, the Swedes were reduced to 10 men after 35 minutes when central defender Teddy Lucic was sent off.
Sweden scrapped their way back into the game before the interval. But the Germans, buoyed by their two-goal blitz, were in command.
The opening goal was made by Klose who won a ball in the air, collected it again and turned past two defenders. His shot was blocked, but Podolski followed up and though Lucic dived to try to head clear, the shot flew in.
The second came when Klose drew three defenders with a diagonal run and then played a reverse pass across the area for Podolski to fire in his third goal of the tournament.