Friday, 18 June 2010

Serbia v Germany

Serbia 1 - 0 Germany
Jovanovic 38

And the upsets just keep coming. Things seemed fine for Germany in the first ten minutes. Ozil chipped through to Khedira in the box, but Khedira shot over, then a clearance came to Podolski, who shot just wide. A half chance for Serbia fell to Ninkovic, but he volleyed well over when he could have taken it down, and we all thought the force would be with Germany.

After twelve minutes Klose clipped Ivanovic's ankles by accident while they were both running back from a German attack. He didn't mean to, and the booking was a bit harsh, I felt. As things turned out, it mattered.

Nothing much was going on. The Germans had good pressure, but were struggling to put some decent crosses in. Klose actually got the ball in the net, but he'd been given offside three seconds before. Khedira and Lahm were both booked, trying to get more usefully involved in the game.

Kolarov had a go from a free kick, but it went over before it dipped down far enough. Lahm and Klose nearly set up a point-blank chance for Podolski, but it went between him and the onrushing Khedira, and was cleared.

It was fortunate there was so little action, because it was virtually impossible to see. It was like the second book of the Lord of the Rings, as a shadow fell across the lands of men.

On 37 minutes Klose picked up a second yellow card, and was off. It was the decisive moment in the game, so it bears looking at. What can't be said, even though Mick McCarthy said it repeatedly, was that the second card was harsh. In fact, he'd tackled Stankovic from behind, and not connected properly with the ball. McCarthy's argument that he'd been trying to get the ball was simply irrelevant. He tried to fudge this by moaning about referees who stick to the letter of the law, but it's unclear what the alternative is.

It was the earlier booking that was harsh, and after that booking Klose should have had more sense anyway. If you dive in from behind when you've already had a yellow then you're probably done with football for the day, so best not to.

It killed Germany. A minute later Zigic got his head to a Krasic cross, and Jovanovic was there to steer it home. He's going to Liverpool next season, which is more than any trophies are likely to do, but at least he'll be arriving with a World Cup goal under his belt.

They rallied, and Ozil played a nice through ball to Khedira, but the keeper Stojkovic just beat him to it. In the next, similar attack he actually collided with the onrushing attacker, and went down. The keeper's a big tart, doing that, said McCarthy. I'm beginning to worry that his crassness and our contempt are enabling each other.

Just before the break Germany had their best chance of the half. An Ozil cross was punched clear by the keeper, it fell to Khedira and his shot hit the bar.

Germany went in at half time a man and a goal down, and that's how it stayed in the second half. There were a few harum scarum moments along the way though.

Schweinsteiger thought he was in just after the break, but Vidic made a great saving tackle. He then had a shot from 25 yards which the keeper beat away unconvincingly. Subotic was booked for a tackle on Ozil, then Podolski dragged a shot wide from fifteen yards out, and another into the side netting. The wolves were circling.

On 59 minutes, they pounced. Vidic, having defended stoutly all afternoon, had a mad moment. He dived to handle a cross coming in from the left, and deflect it from Podolski's path. He was booked, which in itself told a tale - if there'd been any chance of the German forward connecting, he'd have been off. It would have been a brilliant athletic move if he'd been in goal, but for an outfield player it was an entirely incomprehensible one.

It fell to Podolski to apply the coup de grace, but it was far too easy for Stojkovic, who pushed it to one side. Poor Polish Podolski. Two chances in five minutes wasted, and now he'd missed a penalty. When he blazed the next one well over two minutes later, he must have thought it wasn't his day. He was right. They must have been gutted in Munich, perhaps less so in Cracow.

Instead of creating more chances, Germany spent the next ten minutes bringing on substitutes. Ozil left, and Marin came on, to little effect, while Cacau replaced Muller. It made little difference.

For Serbia, Jovanovic nearly added a second, hitting the post from the edge of the box, while Zigic hit the bar with a header he should really have buried. They had some substitutes of their own. Kacar came on for Ninkovic, Petrovic for Kuzmanovic and Lazovic for the goal scorer Jovanovic. Whether there was any point to any of it besides making poor, exhausted bloggers check hundreds of spellings remains unclear.

Finally Germany replaced Badstuber with Gomez. Just to help you keep track, there are three players called Gomez in the World Cup. This was Mario from Germany, and there is also Hercules Gomez for the USA, and Gomes (with an S, which is how come the bastard doesn't come up in your search criteria) the Tottenham keeper, in the Brazil squad. So there.

There was still time for Podolski to waste another chance, and another penalty appeal in injury time, when a Serb seemed to catch a German just after the ball had passed. To be honest my hand was hurting with all the scribbling by then, and the BBC website isn't helping, so do let us know if you know their names.

From now on in, it'll be a shock if a game goes the way it's expected to. Which bodes well for Australia, taking on Ghana tomorrow. If they win, all four teams would have three points each going into the last games. Thrills, spills, this is what I took three weeks off work for.

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