Germany routed Australia tonight in Durban 4-0 as World Cup action continued in South Africa.
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With the win, the Germans moved into top spot in Group D, joined by Ghana in second after their last-gasp 1-0 victory over Serbia.
Earlier in the day, Slovenia went top of Group C — ahead of the United States and England — with a late 1-0 win over Algeria.
In a master-class of efficiency and ruthlessness, the Germans passed unimpeded and scored nearly at will. For the Australians, it was a humbling affair marred further by the ejection (straight red) of their best field player, Tim Cahill, for a tackle from behind on Bastian Schweinsteiger in the second half.
Germany’s goals came from all over the roster, with Miroslav Klose getting his 11th score in the World Cup to move within four of all-time World Cup leader Ronaldo. Lukas Podolski opened the match up with a cracker that blew past Aussie ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer, staking his claim as a Golden Boot hopeful. Thomas Mueller got on the board by finishing a typically lovely bit of interplay that left the ’Roos backline rooted, and Cacau took only two minutes to strike after entering as a sub.
That rounded out a scoreline that was not even as harsh as it might have been.
The Germans had history on their side tonight: they haven’t lost a game in 24 years in the group stages and have won all of their opening games through the last five World Cup finals. But the manner in which they did it was nothing less than imperious. Germany cut up the Aussies so thoroughly that even German fans may have been slightly embarrassed. They did it with technical precision and vision, getting a man-of-the-match performance from Werder Bremen’s Mesut Ozil. Today, he was the spark plug of his offense, providing canny movement off the ball, and brilliant, angling passes on it.
It is hard to imagine Pim Verbeek’s men recovering from such a shaming on the world stage. And the fact they next must face a very solid Ghana side without Cahill may mean that they will exit this Cup early.
In the other Group D game of the day, a tense tactical battle finally exploded into life as a late Asamoah Gyan penalty gave Africa its first victory this Cup as Ghana downed Serbia 1-0 at Loftus Versfeld.
Both sides impressed for 70 minutes as the Serbs displayed discipline and defensive posture against the Serb-coached Ghana squad. Coach Milovan Rajevac knew what to expect, however, and his back four, anchored by sterling play from German-based Hans Sarepi and Isaac Vorsah, throttled the ambitions of Serbia’s Milos Krasic and Nikola Zigic.
At the other end, Ghana’s Prince Tagoe and Gyan found themselves with little space to work, as Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Lazio’s Aleksandar Kolarov controlled the flanks, while Manchester United hard man Nemanja Vidic gobbled all else up. It looked to be a stalemate, an increasingly frustrating day out for two very organized and powerful teams.
But Serbia went to pieces after two awful mental lapses that will leave manager Radomir Antic wondering what to do next. First, Lukovic was sent off for two quick yellow cards, the last one coming after a blatant hold on Gyan. Just 10 minutes later, Zdravko Kuzmanovic fisted the ball out of his own penalty area — and he’s a midfielder, not the ‘keeper. Argentine ref Hector Baldassi immediately pointed to the spot, and Gyan cleanly beat Vladimir Stojkovic with five minutes left on the clock.
The game made waves in less pleasant ways as well: once more, vast swatches of empty seats could be seen at the 51,000 capacity rugby ground, and despite FIFA’s claims it has sold 97% of the tickets to this Cup, no one’s buying it. Prior to the game, football’s governing body announced it was “investigating” this, but unless they conclude that fans are attending games disguised as empty chairs, the matter is already obvious for all to see.
Sunday’s opening game was historic, for the wrong reasons. Slovenia gained their first ever World Cup victory with a 1-0 win, but today’s Group C meeting with Algeria will be better remembered as the Cup’s worst game to date. Both teams looked miserable in Polokwane, laboring to pass the ball cleanly and showing little positive on the attack.
But two bad errors gave the Slovenes an in. First, Algerian sub Abdelkader Ghezzal managed to get himself sent off after only a 16-minute cameo when he blatantly, stupidly handled the ball to earn his second yellow (his first, you ask? He picked it up only a minute after stepping on the field for grabbing a shirt). Reduced to 10 men, the Desert Foxes then compounded their misery by getting caught ball-watching in the 79th, with Madjid Bougherra and Rafik Halliche allowing Robert Koren to get off a shot from the top of the box that ‘keeper Faouzi Chaouchi inexplicably let past his late dive. It was a rare mistake from Chaouchi, who had been solid in limited action, but his failure to get behind the ball immediately reminded observers of England’s Robert Green.
Off this display, neither England nor the Americans should feel very threatened by their upcoming opponents. The USA will face Slovenia Friday afternoon while England take on Algeria that night.
Group E’s Holland face Denmark in the early game (7:30 a.m. EDT) followed by Japan vs Cameroon (10:00 a.m. EDT). The nightcap is Group F’s Italy-Paraguay (2:30 p.m. EDT) clash. Away from your TV? You can follow all games live right here on FOXSports.com or on our Twitter feed (@championsonfox).
Get up early to see the Netherlands. Their clash with Denmark is the game of the day, and Holland can put on a show. Fast, technically adept and free-scoring, the Dutch are legit contenders to go all the way. The Danes can score goals, and while they aren’t the caliber of the Dutch, they were solid in qualifying.
That said, we should note that on the early evidence, a lot of the second-tier European teams are lousy in this Cup; Denmark must be hoping to be the exception. Arjen Robben misses the game for Holland but they still have a lot of other weapons. Nicklas Bendtner is out for the Danes; they have found him tough to replace.