Africa, Sport

In shock reversal of first-round fortunes, unsteady Germans lose to unpredictable Serbs

In shock reversal of first-round fortunes, unsteady Germans lose to unpredictable Serbs

It was supposed to be an easy outing for the rampaging Germans, freshly energised by their destruction of Australia. But, not for the first time in history, (remember who started World War One?) Serbs had some ideas on their own. It ended Serbia 1, Germany 0

It was a do-or-die match for Serbia: their suicidal performance against Ghana confined them to a really tight spot and they didn’t have many other options than to aim for victory. And you couldn’t do much worse than planning to wrest your life-blood points from cold German hands.

And yet, it happened. We’ve already said it: as good as the German attack was in their first match, the holes that were routinely left uncovered in their defense presented a huge opportunity for a team that is in better shape than the hapless Australia. That team on this Friday in Port Elizabeth was Serbia. Even without their prized central defender Lukovic, the Serbs managed to present a defensive front that German attacking unit somehow couldn’t break through.

Photo: German soccer fans react during a public viewing event in Cologne June 18, 2010 to a missed chance of their team’s 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Serbia at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Even when Vidic (in a carbon-copy of the incident against Ghana and for an as yet completely unexplained reason) handled the ball in his penalty box, Podolski could not beat Serbian goalkeeper Stojkovic. From their side, the Serbs managed to convert the one true chance they had, when Jovanovic punished the German defence’s disarray in the first half, and then proceeded to hold on to their tiny lead for the rest of the tense match.

Spanish referee Alberto Undiano played a pivotal role in the game too: his sending-off of Miroslav Klose for a second bookable offence thoroughly changed the complexion of the game.

Bur for all the drama on the field, both teams failed to impress. Germans looked nervous and erratic, while the Serbs, for all their sporadic flashes of brilliance, just couldn’t summon enough precision and cool-headedness to finish off their badly-wounded opponent. A pretty game this wasn’t.

Suddenly, Group D is wide open, with Serbia having serious chances of qualifying again. But for whoever is to go through eventually, the task at hand remains tough: Ghana still has to play against Australia and Germany, and the Serbs are by no means assured of repeating Germany’s performance against the Aussies. There will be plenty of nail-biting moments in this group before the end.

Here are the reporter’s notes:

Germany have not made a change to the side that delivered that crushing defeat to Australia on Sunday. Why would they?

Serbia have made a few changes. They had no choice with Aleksandar Lukovic, who is out with a red card. He is replaced by Neven Subotic. Zdravko Kuzmanovic starts in place of Nenad Milijas.

Starting teams

Germany: Manuel Neuer, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller; Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose

Serbia: Vladimir Stojkovic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Vidic, Neven Subotic, Milos Krasic, Dejan Stankovic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Milan Jovanovic, Milos Ninkovic, Nikola Zigic.

Man of the match

Milan Jovanovic

First half

  • 1st minute: First shot of the game. Zdravko Kuzmanovic tries his luck from distance. Not as lucky as the Argentinians this time.
  • 3rd minute: Sami Khedira has a shot at goal. Shot into the air, more like.

The beautiful Nelson Mandela Bay stadium delivers a greater visual punch than Soccer City. So does Moses Mabhida, in opinion.

  • 7th minute: Lukas Podolski comes within inches of putting Germany ahead. His volley was very similar to his first goal against Australia.
  • 11th minute: Milos Krasic flicks a cross in, and Milos Ninkovic is left clear by the German defence, but his shot is high.
  • 12th minute: A yellow card is awarded to Miroslav Klose for tripping Branislav Ivanovic.
  • 14th minute: Free kick to Serbia. Jovanovic crosses it, and it is just out of reach for Nemanja Vidic. It was out of reach for Manuel Neuer, the German keeper, as well.
  • 18th minute: Ivanovic gets a yellow card for clattering into Podolski from behind.
  • 19th minute: Aleksandar Kolarov gets a yellow card. Both Serbian centre backs have yellow cards now.
  • 21st minute: Sami Khedira earns the fourth yellow card of the match for a professional foul on Krasic.

Four yellow cards already and we’re only halfway through the first half. A sending off is a distinct possibility in this match now.

  • 27th minute: Thomas Mueller crosses to no one.

Play has become far more bogged down, the Germans allowing the Serbs to find their rhythm. Serbia has a far better defence than Australia, as well.

  • 32nd minute: Phillip Lahm goes into the book: a yellow card for a lunge on Krasic. Kolarov’s free kick is not bad at all, going slightly wide of Neuer’s goal.
  • 34th minute: Klose headers a shot down into the penalty area but Khedira is nowhere to be seen.

Photo: Referee Alberto Undiano of Spain shows the red card to Germany’s Miroslav Klose (C) during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Serbia at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

  • 36th minute: Klose gets a second yellow card, for lunging stupidly at Dejan Stankovic, and is sent off. Germany is down to 10 men.

Photo: Serbia’s Milan Jovanovic (C) scores past Germany’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (R) and Arne Friedrich during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

  • 38th minute: Krasic crosses to Zigic, who sets Ivanovic up for a point-blank shot at goal. Strike!

Germany committed suicide there. Klose’s yellow cards were completely unnecessary.

Serbia need to be careful not to concede a goal in the dying moments of the first half. It would be a crippling psychological blow if they do.

photo: Serbia’s Milan Jovanovic (R) celebrates near team mate Dejan Stankovic after scoring against Germany during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

  • 46th minute: corner to Germany: Khedira slams it against the Serbian upright. Mueller attempts a bicycle kick, but is fouled for a high tackle. Shaky moment for the Serbs there.

End of the first half.

Second half

  • 46th minute: Lukas Podolski crosses into the Serbian penalty. Cross or shot?

The Germans are quick out of the starting blocks.

Dejan Stankovic collides with Bastian Schweinsteiger, and goes down, grimacing dramatically. The referee is not buying it.

  • 54th minute: Schweinsteiger shoots from range, and the keeper spills it for Khedira, who attempts a kung fu-style shot on goal. His sensational effort only manages to catch a Serbian defender in the side, and it’s a free kick to Serbia.
  • 57th minute: Yellow card to Neven Subotic for fouling Ozil.
  • 57th minute: Podolski connects with an excellent pass from Ozil, but puts it wide of Stojkovic’s goal posts.
  • 58th minute: Podolski fires a stinging shot into the side netting.

The Serbian defence are being inexplicably lazy here.

  • 59th minute: Yellow card to Nemanja Vidic for handling the ball in his penalty area.

Photo: Serbia’s Nemanja Vidic handballs in the penalty area during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Germany at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

  • 60th minute: Podolski’s penalty shot is saved by Stojkovic.

If you thought this game couldn’t get stranger, it just has. Both sides seem to be competing for the most spectacular suicide.

  • 65th minute: Kolarov’s cross is scooped up by Neuer.

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stranger. Both teams seem determined to fulfill that immortal line from The Dark Knight.

  • 69th minute: Podolski’s shot goes high.
  • 69th minute: Milos Ninkovic comes off for Gojkco Kacar.
  • 69th minute: Ozil comes off for Cacau and Mueller comes off for Marco Marin.

Photo: Germany’s coach Joachim Loew reacts during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Serbia at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

  • 71st minute: Per Mertesacker fouls Zigic from behind, but no card is shown. Hmmm. How was that different to Klose’s sending off?

Replay shows that there was not much contact between Mertesacker and Zigic.

  • 73rd minute: Yellow card for Schweinsteiger. Joachim Loew, the German coach, goes ballistic.
  • 73rd minute: Zigic skims the German cross bar with a header. Serbia were very nearly 2-0 up there.
  • 74th minute: Kolarov boots a shot far wide of the German goals. Why didn’t he pass to his unmarked team mates?
  • 75th minute: Radosav Petrovic comes on for Zdravko Kuzmanovic.
  • 76th minute: Mario Gomez comes on for Holger Badstuber.

Germany now has four strikers on the field.

  • 78th minute: Milan Jovanovic makes way for Kacar.
  • 81st minute: Danko Lazovic makes his first miss of the game. It was a bit of a sitter, but he skies it.
  • 82nd minute: Free kick for Germany, and Podolski sends it in. Vidic defends it for a corner.
  • 84th minute: Another shot by Podolski goes wide. He’s had seven shots on goal, one from the penalty spot, and has yet to score.
  • 87th minute: Germany give the ball away cheaply to Krasic, who passes it to Kacar. There is no Serb in the penalty area, and the cross is completely wasted.

Well, this is rubbish. Absolute rubbish. Germany has completely lost confidence, and the Serbs are trying to walk it in. The only thing really differentiating the teams right now is that Germany is playing more awful football.

  • 92nd minute: Germany is camped in the Serb penalty area, but so is the Serbian side.
  • 93rd minute: Dejan Stankovic is stretchered off after a vicious kick on Mario Gomez.

End of the second half.

Report by Branko Brkic; Notes by Sipho Hlongwane

Photo: Serbia’s goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic makes a save during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Germany at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 18, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach


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