DURBAN // Germany have reached the final four at the last two World Cups and the served notice that they will be serious challengers again by demolishing an ageing Australia team last night. Spain and Brazil may be the favourites to lift the trophy, but Joachim Loew's exciting side demonstrated attacking flair and clinical finishing in putting on the best performance of the tournament so far. Another encouraging sign for the Germans - all four goals came from different scorers: Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Muller and Cacau. This is the youngest team to represent Germany at a World Cup for 76 years. In contrast, only three of Australia's starting line-up were under 30 and it showed as they were run into the ground by their opponents.
Loew said beforehand that his team is ready for anything thrown at them in South Africa, and captain Philipp Lahm described this as the best German side he has known in almost a decade. The way they ruthlessly sliced through a naive Australian defence time and again suggested they will be a test for the best of teams. The words ruthless and efficiency spring to mind whenever you watch the Germans in a World Cup match, and they made no effort to shake off that reputation against Pim Verbeek's men who put in plenty of effort but had little to show for it.
Germany were 2-0 up within 25 minutes and it could have been four or five by half-time. Podolski got them off to the perfect start in the eighth minute. Mesut Ozil put a clever pass to Muller, the highly rated Bayern Munich forward, who cut the ball back from the byline for Podolski to power in a shot that Mark Schwarzer got a hand to but could not stop. Klose - the veteran striker who has 10 World Cup goals to his name - then missed a sitter in the 23rd minute, sliding in to shoot high and wide from close range, but made up for it by doubling the German lead two minutes later.
Lahm delivered a perfect cross and Klose rose between Lucas Neill and Schwarzer to head the ball into the net. Neill then had to clear off the line when Ozil chipped the ball past Schwarzer as Germany broke the Australian offside trap seemingly at will. Australia did have a chance just after the break. Richard Garcia thought he should have had a penalty when his header hit Per Mertsecker on the arm, but Marco Rodriguez, the Mexican referee, disagreed. The man in charge then effectively killed of any slim hopes Australia had by sending off Tim Cahill, their biggest goal threat, ten minutes later.
The Everton midfielder certainly fouled Bastian Schweinsteiger from behind, but the red card produced shocked expressions from the Australian team. Inevitably, Germany took advantage. Klose went close twice again, missing simple chance from inside the box twice in the space of ten minutes, before Muller latched onto a through ball, dummied onto his right foot and drove the ball in off the left hand post from 20 yards to add a third. It was 4-0 two minutes later when the Brazilian-born striker Cacau, who had only come on a minute late, tapped home after Ozil had squared the ball to him from the left. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Man of the match: Lucas Podolski