Germany 0 Serbia 1
Germany: Neur; Lahm, Mertersacker, Friedrich, Badsturber (Gomez 77); Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Muller (Marin 70), Ozil (Cacau 70), Podolski; Klose
Serbia: Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Vidic, Subotic, Kolarov; Krasic, Kuzmanovic (Petrovic 75), Stankovic, Jovanovic (Lazovic 79), Ninkovic (Kacar 69); Zigic
Serbia upset the form book in Port Elizabeth this afternoon with a 1-0 win over the much-fancied Germans who were so impressive in their opening game against Australia last week. A goal from Milan Jovanovic was enough to see Radomir Antic’s side pick up the three points following an efficient and organised performance which blows Group D wide open.
Joachim Low set his team up in their now familiar 4-2-3-1, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger holding in midfield with Mesut Ozil in the playmaker role behind Miroslav Klose, the lone striker. Serbia, on the other hand, made a drastic change to the 4-4-2 shape they used in the defeat to Ghana last Sunday, Nenad Milijas and Marko Pantelic being replaced by Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Milos Ninkovic to provide an extra man in midfield in a 4-5-1, whilst Neven Subotic was drafted in to cover for the suspended Aleksandar Lukovic.
Germany had the majority of the play during the first half, keeping possession neatly without ever really breaking down the Serbian back line or creating much in the way of clear goalscoring opportunities.
Ozil caused Dejan Stankovic, the deepest of Serbia’s midfield five, problems early on with his intelligent movement but the Eastern Europeans generally looked comfortable in the face of German attacks.
Unfortunately the flow of what was shaping up to be an interesting game was disrupted by an overly officious Spanish referee who was all too keen to book players for fairly innocuous challenges, creating a precedent whereby it was as good as inevitable that the game wouldn’t finish with the full complement of players.
That inevitability was fulfilled on 37 minutes when Klose was sent off for a soft second booking, a decision that completely altered the pattern of the tie going into the second half.
Going down to ten men forced Low to shift to a 4-4-1, pushing Ozil up front on his own, attempting to press Serbia from the front almost single-handedly. Just minutes after Klose’s dismissal Antic’s side took the lead against the run of play with a flowing move down the right side, Milos Krasic getting the better of a decidedly shaky Holger Badsturber to cross for Jovanovic to bundle home after Nicola Zigic’s downward header.
The goal saw the game open up to a certain degree, Die Mannschaft going on the offensive and creating several chances after falling behind. Low’s team were awarded a penalty following a blatant handball by Nemanja Vidic only for Lukas Podolski to see his tame effort saved by Vladimir Stojkovic before Khedira smashed a drive against the crossbar shortly afterwards. After that flurry of chances, however, the wind seemed to be taken from German sails and the game meandered towards its conclusion. The introduction of Cacau and Marko Marin did little to restore the initiative to the Germans, and Serbia played out the final 20 minutes in relative comfort, even going close to doubling their lead through Zigic.
Although Germany may have cause to be aggrieved at the standard of refereeing this afternoon, they failed to reach the heights of their opening performance against Australia, succumbing to the organisation of Serbia in the defensive phase in a similar fashion to the way in which Spain struggled against Switzerland on Wednesday. The result throws Group D wide open and, with Ghana still to come, Die Mannschaft’s progress through to the last 16 suddenly looks a little less certain. This will be the group to watch going into the final round of games next week.