Germany 1 Poland 0: Germany on brink after Neuville's late stunner

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The celebrations were as unbridled as they would be if Germany actually go on to win this World Cup. Maybe they will. They certainly feel they are on a roll and although it is a team short of quality it is big on endeavour. And, backed by an increasingly buoyant home support, it appears they are starting to believe.

But it took a 90th-minute goal from substitute Oliver Neuville, sliding in to meet a low cross from another replacement, David Odonkor, to beat a doggedly determined and, at times, threatening Poland who improved dramatically on their performance against Ecuador but who are now, effectively, out of the competition.

The Germans go forward from Group A into the last 16 with their coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, who ran on to the pitch at the end before darting back into his dug-out to soak up the atmosphere, saying: "I'm really enjoying this World Cup at home."

He also believes his young side are gathering a vital quality - momentum. No doubt they deserved the victory with the hosts having spurned a host of opportunities in the first half in particular, but it was only with the 75th-minute dismissal of Radoslaw Sobolewski for a second yellow card that Poland starting to wilt. Even then it was Neuville who was tugged back.

After that and, in one incredible passage of play, both Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack struck the crossbar while Artur Boruc saved brilliantly from the hugely impressive Philipp Lahm and from Klose. At the end, Boruc, the Celtic goalkeeper, slumped to the ground in disbelief while his coach, Pawel Janas, stood rooted to the spot.

Once again the Poles had failed to beat their neighbours from across the river Oder. It is now 85 years of trying. Inside the stadium there was simply the most raucous, passionate of atmospheres even if German police announced prior to kick-off that they had arrested 85 Polish fans. There were reports of another 300 arrests after the game.

The Poles started the more threateningly with Maciej Zurawski cleverly playing off the main striker Ebi Smolarek, on his home club ground, as Janas switched his personnel around. Ballack, restored after injury, struggled to dictate the tempo. Instead it was Lahm, from left-back, who fashioned the two best chances. First he floated in a wonderful left-footed cross behind the Polish defence for Klose. Somehow, with Boruc stranded, he glanced his header narrowly wide.

Germany's other Polish-born striker Lukas Podolski was then even more wasteful as he deftly controlled another clever centre from Lahm only to screw his shot wide with Boruc beaten. Klinsmann could barely conceal his disbelief - and then his annoyance as Bastien Schweinsteiger ballooned a shot over from Podolski's cut-back.

After the break the Germans appeared drained of self-belief. Both Klose and Ballack mistimed headers. Nerves began to fray while the Poles still threatened on the counter-attack. Finally, Klinsmann gambled and threw on more strikers. It heightened the pressure but Poland stood firm.

That was until they were reduced in number. Suddenly they appeared tired and the Germans sensed victory. Again Klose mis-timed a header while another substitute Tim Borowski shot inches wide. It seemed too late. But then Neuville struck.

Comments