Before Germany’s emphatic defeat of Australia this evening, World Cup 2010 had, in all honesty, struggled to find the requisite excitement levels on the pitch to match the off-field hype and expectation. Goals from Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Muller and Cacau capped a near-faultless performance from Joachim Low’s side and injected some much-needed energy into a tournament which has thus far produced a handful of relatively nervous and mundane ties.
Siphiwe Tshabalala’s goal in the opening game of the tournament briefly sent the Bafana Bafana support into overdrive on home turf, but Rafael Marquez’s equaliser for Mexico took the wind out of the occasion and deprived the competition of a result which would have set the stage for a thrilling month of football. What followed that game were a string of uninspiring ties involving the likes of France, Uruguay, England, USA, Slovenia and Algeria, with only Argentina, South Korea and Ghana giving observers the slightest cause for optimism.
Germany, however, stamped their authority on the tournament this evening and, just as they did four years ago, brought the tournament to life. Back in 2006 they produced a wonderful display in the opening game against Costa Rica, a 4-2 victory with two particularly thunderous strikes from Phillip Lahm and Torsten Frings getting the tournament off to the best possible start. For a team all too often labeled as “bland” and “efficient”, Die Mannschaft are surprisingly effective at providing spectators with some of the most breathtaking performances of the early rounds.
This evening it was a new generation of German players that shone, with Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira all central to the destruction of their Antipodean opponents. The poise the Germans showed in possession as well as their explosiveness in attack made for superb viewing, a welcome antidote to some of the dour games produced by Groups A, B and C. Low’s players showed that it is possible to attack with relatively low risk in these crucial early group games, proving that defensive responsibility does not necessarily have to be sacrificed in order to show intent and flair going forward.
The Germans are owed a debt of gratitude for finally kick-starting what has the potential to be an enthralling tournament and, if more teams follow their balanced yet uninhibited example, we could be in for a spectacular few weeks of action. Indeed, with Holland, Brazil and Spain still yet to take to the field, the competition might only be starting to warm up. It’s been a slow start, but all the elements are now in place for South Africa 2010 to start producing some truly world-class football in the days and weeks to come.