Jurgen Klinsmann can breathe again after three goals in the last quarter of an hour gave the host nation a second victory and a passage to the semi-finals.
There can be few things more humiliating than an early elimination for the host nation and this fear will be preying on the Klinsmann’s mind come next summer. The responsibility for guiding a large football nation like Germany to a World Cup is an awesome one, but when you are hosting it and have not been won anything for ten years the pressure is even greater. These past two games have been Klinsmann’s first experiences on the other side of the white line and he has manifested a level of concern and stress he never did as a player.
The German media had underestimated Australia, printing pictures of kangaroos and Paul Hogan to mock the team that would breach the German defence three times, and Klinsmann took stick for being run so close by such a ‘minnow’. Tunisia seemed worse tonight than Australia were but were resolute in frustrating the hosts’ ambitions for an hour and a quarter.
On a hot afternoon in Cologne, Germany toiled away but never looked likely to score until skipper Michael Ballack got the goals rolling after 73 minutes.
Arsenal’s Jens Lehmann had been preferred to his old rival Oliver Kahn, another to bear the brunt of the post-Kangaroo court in the paprs, but looked calamitous in tumbling into the net after mistiming his parry of an inswinging corner in the twenty-sixth minute.
Germany overall looked rather prosaic but for the useful Bastian Schweinsteiger, who came to international attention at Euro 2004, the right-sided labours of Sebastian Deisler and of course the creativity and drive of Michael Ballack. It was Ballack who had a header cleared off the line after thirty-two minutes and Schweinsteiger who put the ball in the net nine minutes later but had strayed a yard offside.
rom the start of the Bitcoin Dice second half until the breakthrough on seventy-three minutes Germany looked almost like the away team aiming to soak up attacks and then strike on the counter-attack. But the penalty dispatched by Ballack, who had been tripped by Abdi moments earlier turned over a new leaf for the Germans.
On eighty minutes Schweinsteiger rounded the keeper and fired in from an acute angle having been put through by Lucas Podolski and with two minutes remaining substitute Mike Hanke made it three at the second attempt to conclude a wonderfully flowing move that began in defence.
Klinsmann will recall from his vast playing experience that luck or serendipity always have parts to play in success and the nation with home advantage can expect a large portion before the start. Today the Germans looked far World Cup winners and seemed unlikely to score. That they won 3-0 and top their group without having played well is so typically German that Jurgen should sleep more soundly than most.