Amidst all the well-deserved plaudits heading
Low said: ““This was just our first match and we know Australia is not the ultimate benchmark. There will be more difficult opponents to play against and there is no need for us to get carried away.” Jurgen Klinsmann’s former assistant is right to dampen down expectations, which have been considerably amplified by the anaemic displays played out in the other World Cup games so far. Of the list of likely World Cup winners, only Argentina and, arguably, Brazil, have looked impressive aside from Low’s team, giving Germany extra spotlight that is neither particularly welcome nor helpful. The Coach is also right to point out the substandard opposition Germany faced on Sunday, and although Germany have what may not prove to be as tough a group in practice as it looked on paper, the quality of opponent is sure to improve when Serbia line up against the three-time winners on Friday.
The spectre of complacency may only totally be exorcised by a tough group game. Serbia and Ghana, have more than enough talent amongst their top players to cause Low a problem. Raddy Antic’s side are thoroughly unpredictable however, and are just as likely to frustrate as thrill their passionate support, but a Serbia side playing at the top of their game could be the best thing to happen to Germany in these early stages. With quality in every department, from Nemanja Vidic at centre-back, Dejan Stankovic and Milos Krasic in midfield and Nikola Zigic – a real match for fellow giant Per Mertesacker – up front, when firing on all cylinders Serbia have the skill to be considered dark horses at the World Cup – they just failed to show it against Ghana. For any hope of reaching the next round, Serbia must to take at least a point from Germany and ideally all three. That desire, should it be coupled with a Germany team invested in its own hype, could blow Group D wide open.
Prevailing wisdom before the World Cup began that said this vintage of German team was a weak one was, in actuality, more a case of shallow analysis of a team bereft of big names. Mesut Ozil was always a sure-fire contender to be one of the tournament’s leading lights, even if he is hidden from the Champions League-obsessed mainstream media’s myopic view and, from his first appearance, it is hard to argue any other individual player has impressed so much. Ozil’s profile has risen outside of Germany after his virtuoso performance against Australia and, as well as complacency, Ozil – and his teammates too – now have to deal with a new challenge – expectation. As discussed earlier, Low has already moved to diminish the fuss around his charges but even more than the Coach’s comments, a quieter, less spectacular performance against Serbia would shift the football community’s eyes elsewhere. One of the World Cup’s other so-called star teams matching Germany’s accomplishments would help too – and be appreciated by the rest of us.
Low is a popular figure around the Germany camp – Lukas Podolski has recently implored the 50-year-old to extend his contract past the World Cup – and his cautionary words will resonate amongst the squad, a number of whom experienced the disappointment of semi-final defeat on home turf four years ago. The memory of losing to Italy in heartbreaking fashion – conceding two goals in the bowels of extra time – should act as a further spur to the likes of Mertesacker, Miroslav Klose and Philipp Lahm, who each started in Dortmund. Klose has a further reason for continuing his form into the rest of the tournament – four more goals takes the Bayern Munich man level with Ronaldo in the list of all-time World Cup scorers. Having managed five strikes in each of the last two competitions, Klose has the pedigree to join the legendary Brazilian on that exalted pedestal, providing Germany remain in South Africa until the latter stages. With so much to play for on a personal and collective level, there are plenty of reasons Germany will avoid falling victim to the ‘c’ word. Their reward could be having another ‘c’ word bestowed on them on July 11 – champions.