The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Germans canít afford to relax at any stage
Talking Tactics

PK Banerjee

The Germans went expectedly through to the last eight, but not before 10 gallant Swedes gave the hosts a trying time for a 40-minute spell on either side of half-time.

We almost saw two German teams in Munich. In the opening half hour, Klinsmannís side played explosive football with Podolski pumping in two opportunistic goals. So rampant were the Germans then, that it was a miracle they didnít add three to four more. Had Swedish goalie Isaksson not stood with hands of steel under the bar, the game would have died a premature death.

Ironically, the Swedes sprang to life after Lucic was sent off in the 35th minute for a double booking. The last five minutes of that half brought Sweden their best moments. A quick turn and shot by Ibrahimovic saw an unsighted Lehmann come up with a terrific reflex save. Then, Larsson latched on to a 50-metre ball from defence and essayed a cross which Lehmann fumbled. Unfortunately, there was none to slot home the rebound.

Then came the Larsson blunder. He earned his team a penalty after being pushed off control by Metzelder only to blast the ball miles over the crosspiece. That goal would have given Sweden a window of opportunity and who knows' Sometimes losing a man is a blessing in disguise and the likes of Larsson and Ibrahimovic could have stretched the Germans even further.

I was disappointed with the way the Germans got lax after the Swedes were reduced to 10 men. They took victory for granted and that is one lesson Ballack & Co. should learn: Never underestimate the enemy.

In sharp contrast to their direct, pressing style in the initial stages, the Germans lowered gears to such an extent that they started mispassing, stopped chasing balls and gave the opposition that extra yard of space in the middle.

Klinsmann can still take a bag of positives from this game. Podolski showed why he is rated so highly. Senior pro Klose, sitting atop the scorersí list at the end of the first round, showed his unselfish side by not getting desperate to score and even set up Podolskiís second with a classy Ďscissorí pass.

Michael Ballack, the midfield general who is nearly reaching prime form, was determined to get into the scoring sheet. He had eight attempts at goal of which four were on target but Isaksson stood in the way. Ballack, in fact, was the only German to show some urgency in the middle period.

I hope Klinsmann would have taken note of his teamís mistakes in the first knockout round. Sterner tests are coming up, and Germany canít afford to relax a single moment if they are to realise a dream on July 9.

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