Young Germans strut their stuff

Germany's Arne Friedrich, left, goes over Australia's Tim Cahill during World Cup action at Moses...

Germany's Arne Friedrich, left, goes over Australia's Tim Cahill during World Cup action at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban. (REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:18 PM ET

DURBAN - One was washed up, the other burned out.

Or so they were told.

Not so long ago, it seemed Miroslav Klose, 32, and Lukas Podolski, 25, were destined to undergo a huge fall from grace, one that many predicted would result in a resounding plop.

Klose, a little greyer, a little slower, a little more flat footed - or so the critics said - spent much of the season on the bench with Bayern Munich, notching only three goals in the campaign.

Having left Bayern to return to Koln, Podolski was even worse, scoring just twice all season. Two strikers who could no longer strike.

Or so they were told.

But German manager Joachin Low didn’t buy it. He had a gut feeling these two long-time national team performers he had depended on so many times in the past would come through for him again.

Right on all counts.

In what would turn out to be the most dominant performance of the 2010 World Cup thus far, Germany spanked Australia 4-0 at the spectacular Moses Mabhida Stadium, with Klose and Podolski leading the way with first-half goals.

Klose and Podolski are examples of players who seem to escalate their games whenever they tug on the trademark white German jersey.

Maybe they put something in the material. Maybe there is some special force in the stitching. Whatever it is, certain players simply seem to raise their games when the national team comes calling.

Low couldn’t care how it works. It just does.

And there’s the rub.

Klose has now scored 11 goals in World Cup games, a very impressive feat. Podolski, meanwhile, has scored as many goals for the national team (37) as he’s racked up for his club side.

Low played a hunch. He played the loyalty card. And it worked.

This is what the Germans do. And too many others don’t.

Too many times it seems English players perform better for their Premier League sides than for their own. Wayne Rooney, for example, has more red cards than goals in World Cup competition despite being dominant on the domestic front.

Perhaps it is a case of tightening up when they should be stepping up.

Stepping up to the world stage.

For the Germans, the exact opposite, in many cases, seems to be true. They were loose the moment they stepped onto the pitch. And it would go on from there.

“We have earned some respect,” Klose said. You could see that we had fun playing out there.

“I know what I can do. I feel great.”

And then, out of the blue, something you haven’t heard much before.

“We are having fun out there,” Klose said.

That’s right. Fun.

For far too long, the Germans played a mechanicalized system, one that stressed winning over enjoyment.

Now they enjoy a much more wide open style, stressing creativity as a foundation of winning.

It worked on this night. And the rest of the soccer world took notice.

In a World Cup where goals have been few and far between, the three-time champion Germans made a statement that could be heard as far away as Rio, Buenos Aires, Madrid and London.

Despite going without the services of Michael Ballack for the entire 2010 tournament, they didn’t appear to need their captain. With him out of the lineup, it was time for kids such as Thomas Mueller to pick up the slack.

Mueller and Cacau chipped in with second half goals as Germany flexed its offence muscles. Remember, no other team in the tournament to date had scored two goals in a game, let alone four.

With Ballack out of the lineup, this is the youngest German roster to play in a World Cup since 1934. And, judging by their offensive outburst, one of the quickest.

As the Germans continued to pump home goals, you can bet pre-tournament favourites Brazil, Argentina, Spain and England were watching.

They had better.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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