A Stroll In The Park
Germany 2-0 Sweden
Well, it couldn’t have been much easier for them, could it? True enough, Germany were more or less home and dry within about a quarter of an hour, with Poboloski showing the sort of form that had been threatening to, and Ballack marauded around the middle third of the pitch with such purpose and single-mindedness that it was difficult to not think that the Germans have spent the last couple of years preparing The Ultimate World Cup Midfield Robot. He seemed to be malfunctioning somewhat towards the end, though: shooting every time he got the ball, no matter where he was. The second half was almost bizarrely one-sided, with Germans lining up to shoot at the almost defenceless Swedish goalkeeper, Isaksson. He must have been wondering where his defence was. The Germans hit the post twice and forced him into a string of fine saves. He alone deserved more out of this match than the first flight back to Stockholm tomorrow morning.
As I said before, Germany were well on their way early on – they had a helping hand to make things easier, though. Teddy Lucic had already been booked when he committed an innocuous looking foul no the half-way line. Immediately, German players surrounded the referee and started brandishing imaginary cards at the referee who, to my astonishment, decided that he agreed with them after all and sent Lucic off. As you can see from the above picture, he had a big smile on his face as he did it. For a referee to be so influenced by the players, and furthermore to take such pleasure in sending a player off was absolutely reprehensible.
Early in the second half, Sweden’s game was up. Larsson was felled inside the area (it looked like six of one and half a dozen of the other to me, but never mind), stepped up, and… blazed the ball about six feet over the crossbar. From then, it was more or less a training match for the Germans, as the Swedes visibly faded.
So, we haven’t still, I don’t think, seen the real Germany. Quite why the Swedes rolled over so quickly, I’m not certain. They had the stuffing knocked out of them with the two early goals, but never really recovered from it. For Germany, the real test now awaits… we’ll know if they’ve got Argentina in a couple of hours or so.