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German masterclass the highlight so far

June 15, 2010

German substitute Cacau knows how good his team were -

To borrow a choice phrase from The Big Book of Football Cliché (Tyldesley and Drury, Harper Collins, £12.99): never write off the Germans. With their ruthless efficiency and big-game mentality they will prove you wrong and leave you with egg on your face.

This was demonstrated in Sunday night’s dismantling of a disappointing Australia side which Germany dominated throughout. By far the pick of the sides on show thus far in South Africa, their incisive midfield and clinical finishers constitute a welcome arrival on a World Cup scene largely devoid of quality. True, Spain are yet to show their faces and Brazil play tonight, but only Argentina (and, all too briefly, Ghana) have come close to the panache and skill exhibited by Europe’s most successful exponents of the beautiful game (taking into acount European Championships as well as World Cups). Mesut Ozil, despite a first-half dive, was the pick of those going forward, but he was ably assisted by Lukas Podolski, fresh from a poor season, and Miroslav Klose, who netted his eleventh goal in his third World Cup. Bastian Schweinsteiger seems to be sitting deeper than in previous international outings, acting as the first port of call for a defence looking to play the ball out rather than lump it forward like most other teams so far. A very impressive first performance.

Japan and Cameroon: come back when you fancy playing football -

Elsewhere, pickings have been thin for those seeking entertainment.
Prior to the Teutonic masterclass we had a dull Slovenia Algeria clash (improved by the often insightful punditry of the BBC’s Mark Bright), which saw an absurd handball and a poor piece of goalkeeping as Slovenia won 1-0 to lead England’s group by Sunday lunchtime. Following them Ghana showed an elegant passing game as they narrowly beat a probably stronger Serbia side by the same scoreline – once again a game most memorable for a silly handball which led to a red card (and, after Asamoah Gyan had struck the ball home from the penalty spot, some superb Ghanaian dancing by the edge of the pitch).

Two more unmemorable games on Monday saw Holland win 2-0 against Denmark, in a game covered live on The Videprinter, and Japan surprisingly beat a poor Cameroon side with Samuel Eto’o marooned on the right hand side, unable to weave any magic to undo a resilient (but dull) Japan. Italy Paraguay promised more, and in part delivered. Italy look dangerous at times yet also relatively easy to contain – both sides only scored due to more poor defending and (and, in Paraguay’s case, goalkeeping) that has blighted the opening stages of the competition. Both sides should progress in a group containing Slovakia and New Zealand, but Slovakia look a decent shout to top the group by mid-afternoon today.

But, after four days, the pertinent question is: can Germany triumph come July?
They’re always there or thereabouts, Clive.

Today’s predictions:
Slovakia 1 New Zealand 0
Ivory Coast 1 Portugal 1
Brazil 5 North Korea 0


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