Ballack's rocket signals Welsh demise

Wales 0 Germany 2

In truth, however, this was a comfortable night for the Germans as they pin their ears back and head directly for South Africa. For the beleaguered John Toshack, however, there were a few personal displays to whisper of a brighter future – and this time around he was also to blame an official. "The referee produced two decisions you would not see in park football," barked Toshack before going on to praise his team: "I can't have asked for more against such a top team."

Indeed, it was a spirited display after a quite chaotic build-up. Not only was Bellamy a late withdrawal, heading back to Eastlands after his knee injury had flared up, but Jason Koumas also declared himself unfit with a hip problem. That meant Simon Davies wearing the armband and the Arsenal 18-year-old Aaron Ramsey making his competitive international debut.

Within 11 minutes the first outrageous verdict transformed Wales' task from improbable to implausible. How Terje Hauge failed to award the home side the throw-in after it had deflected off a German back defied the belief. But the Wales players committed the cardinal sin of carrying on their protest and Michael Ballack made them pay with a thundering right-footer from 30 yards

It obviously looked bleak thereafter against the side ranked second in the world, but despite Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski both going close, Wales had their own opportunities. Their best chance was undoubtedly the penalty that never was. Serdar Tasci was on the floor when he handled the ball, not once but twice, in the process of denying Joe Ledley.

Three minutes following the restart and the fates turned on Wales again when poor Ashley Williams stuck out his left boot and watched in despair as Mario Gomez's cross was diverted inside Wayne Hennessey's near post.

To their credit, the home side kept plugging away, with Earnshaw producing a fine turn which required Robert Enke to be at his most alert. Yet there was a palpable and depressing sense of the visitors testing out their lower gears. Still, that allowed the willing young Dragons to push forward and they did so to the chants of "Wales, Wales, Wales". After the boos of five days before that was probably about as much as could be wished.

Wales (5-3-2): Hennessey (Wolves); Ricketts (Hull), Nyatanga (Derby), Collins (West Ham), Williams (Swansea), Bale (Tottenham); Davies (Fulham), Ledley (Cardiff), Ramsey (Arsenal); Earnshaw (Nottingham Forest), Vokes (Manchester City). Substitutes used: Gunter (Tottenham) for Ricketts, 54; Evans (Manchester City) for Vokes, 61; Cotterill (Sheffield United) for Nyatanga, 75.

Germany (4-4-2): Enke (Hannover); Beck (Hoffenheim), Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Tasci (Stuttgart), Lahm (Bayern Munich); Rolfes (Bayer Leverkusen), Hitzlsperger (Stuttgart), Ballack (Chelsea), Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich); Podolski (Bayern Munich), Gomez (Stuttgart). Substitutes used: Trowchowski (Hamburg) for Podolski, 73; Westermann (Schalke) for Rolfes, 79.

Referee: T Hauge (Norway).

Group Four

Wales results: Wales 1 Azerbaijan 0, Russia 2 Wales 1, Wales 2 Liechtenstein 0, Germany 1 Wales 0, Wales 0 Finland 2, Wales 0 Germany 2.

Remaining fixtures: 6 June Azerbaijan v Wales, 9 Sept Wales v Russia, 10 Oct Finland v Wales, 14 Oct Liechtenstein v Wales.

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