It took less than a minute for Podolski to swing a leg at the ball and have it fly past the far post at Australia's end but a minute or so later Australia won the first corner. It's not really a honours even scenario but the blinkered fan might take comfort. Both sides looked relatively sharp but the German defence seems, well, nervous and the Australian attack somewhat unimaginative.
Perhaps it is a meeting of equals after all.
Australia seemed to have a good number of set piece opportunities early with a further corner and a handily placed free kick on the edge of the box, after Cahill was fouled by Friedrich, wasted by Skoko. By contrast the German offense found it's path to goal in open play. The opening few minutes saw neither side with any clear cut opportunities. In a way an early goal might have made the game more interesting So after the 17 minutes were up Bernd Schneider found himself himself with a lot more space then he was entitled to and managed to shoot from outside the area and though Schwarzer seemed to have the shot covered he, nor I suspect Schneider, expected to have Kuranyi flick the ball slightly to the right in a barely onside position. Of course onside it was.
So you got the distinct impression Germany might now take the game away from Australia having scored... well maybe not against the run of play but at least somewhat unexpectedly. So when only minutes later Roberth Huth was booked for a challenge on (I think) Cahill I was curious to see the Australian player lying well into the penalty area. My mind wondered whether the referee had pointed to the spot. He hadn't but the free kick was almost directly in front on the edge of the area. Several Australians lined up for the kick but in the end Skoko took the shot and played it low, the German wall helpfully jumped over it and Kahn could not quite reach it.
If the first goal was unexpected this one seemed out of the blue, but 1-1 it was.
For about 2 minutes.
Per Mertesacker is an abnormally large man who Germany like to bring up for set pieces. Can't really blame them, I'd do the same. So when Germany won a corner he naturally hung around the 6 yard box. So the ball was played in a round about way before finally Mertesacker found himself just to the right of goal and not very far out. He then showed he's not only good for his height but swung his leg at the loose ball and smashed it into the net.
It was certainly an open game, in the good sense. It wasn't totally sloppy defending leading to all these goals.
The crowd seemed happy with the score this way, but Germany did not go into its shell and, thankfully neither did Australia.
Just after the half hour, only 1/3rd of the way into the game, Josip Skoko ran at the defence and slid a ball into it. JOhn Aloisi knew it was coming and was first to the ball and clipped it first touch across the keeper and just inside the far post. A beautiful goal, I'm tempted to say "world-class" but really it was just a neat, well-constructed goal helped by a slightly forgiving German defence.
Crowd were considerably more shocked by Australia levelling the score a second time. Like the saying goes once might be an accident but twice looks like carelessness. There's a good deal of ignorance behind that kind of sentiment too. Australia are guilty of it when they play the likes of Kuwait and Germany probably here. I know when I lived the first decade of my life less than 20kms from, that very stadium I had no idea where Australia was.
I have to say though, for an International with a degree of meaning, this was a very entertaining game. I am hopeful the same German papers suggesting things borne of the aforementioned ignorance give the Australian as much credit as they will scorn the home side. Not very hopeful mind you. I mean you're not very German unless you have a healthy dose of arrogance. Half my family is German, I know what I'm talking about.
The previous week the Germans had a 2-2 draw with Russia, they showed highlights of that game before the match here and I have to say the Germans looked dangerous in attack in that game and the 2 goals they conceded just told me the defence needed some more cohesion and, well, steel. That sort of thing will come, but not from one week to the next. Here again Kuranyi, Schneider and Schweinsteiger seemed capable of springing a goal most of the time and while I didn't notice Ballack much whenever I did concentrate on him he seemed to be pulling the midfield strings quite capably.
So the whole thing continued until halftime without an addition to the score but a yellow card for Milicevic for a late tackle and a couple of chances to both sides, Germany having the better of those. For Australia Skoko was the difference between yet another heroic but fruitless effort by Australia and the kind of success they actually had. Emerton was playing a lot better than he had for a while, Moore was defending well and Milicevic's role in front of the back four seemed to be a successful tactic. Cahill and Aloisi also proving their worth, Aloisi proving far more effective then Sterjovski against New Zealand and Viduka not on the bench it is a good time for Aloisi to prove himself as a viable alternative to the holding centre forward role.
Klinsmann must have given quite a halftime talk with Podolski just a little too slow to get his foot to a cross within seconds of the restart, and another attack down the same right side foiled soon after. However having been through the first half Australia showed a degree of confidence I haven't seen from them in a long time. I guess it's true what they say that at this level there's not a lot between winners and losers.
Schweinsteiger had a ripping shot at goal from about 5 kilometres out which Schwarzer just turned away and Ballck followed up dangerously after the corner was taken. It was all going at top speed. The kind of game even a neutral party could enjoy.
So it was sad when Tony Popovic had his ankle trodden on (and in painful slow motion turned on it) thanks to Schweinsteiger and Poppa had to go off. When the announcer mentioned Tony Vidmar as a possible replacement I was concerned... Schweinsteiger got a card for his efforts.
With only 10 men on the pitch Schwarzer was a busy man, notably saving another long shot, this time thanks to Frings, and palming it away for corner. It was all too much for Popovic though, after a few minutes back he was replaced by McKain
Just after the hour Arne Friedrich earned himself a penalty... a bit of a home town decision but Ballack took the shot and sent Schwarzer the wrong way for his first noticeable contribution to the game. The foul itself, conceded by Milicevic, was clearly played for but skilfully enough to be plausible. I always pretend how I would feel if the situation were reversed. I think I would have been slightly embarrassed.
Amazingly Australia earned another free kick close to goal only minutes later, but Germany proved their wall-building skills were still sound more times than not. Overall though it seems the second half flurry and the goal which resulted from it gave Germany an excuse to shift to a slightly lesser gear. I would guess this might have been part of the reason Klinsmann sent Asamoah onto the field. Nothing like a substitute looking to impress his coach to spark up the rest of the team.
Farina must have thought it was good idea because he sent Culina on for what I imagine might be similar reasons, not to be outdone Klnsmann put Deisler on. Several more substitutions later and the game remained unchanged. A few good moves involving the subs from either side were not enough to influence the scoreline.
Just when I was ready to accept the 3-2 result Germany produced a flourish which, given their second half performance, was probably deserved. Substitutes Ernst and Asamoah combined before Ballack got a rare touch in the penalty area. He squared it back to a largely unmarked Podolski who blasted it into the net.
To their credit Australia begged to differ when it came to a 2 goal margin. Just when everyone had written their summation for the second time Australia came forward and Skoko played a first time ball in behind the defenders, most of who had their hands in the air before Aloisi got the ball and tried to sneak it under Kahn who was the only one paying any real attention. Kahn stopped the ball, more or less by sitting on it, but it wriggled out enough to offer Aloisi a second chance which he gratefully accepted.
It would have been possible, if slightly unfair, for Australia to make it 4-4 but the 3 minutes of added time managed to expire without further goals, if not events. Ballack getting a late booking.