Germany 2 Sweden 0: Germans warm to Klinsmann's 'historic revolution'

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Jens Lehmann had a phrase for it in the wake of Germany's pulsating, passionate victory over Sweden that propelled them, pushed by the desire of a nation, into the last eight of the World Cup. "It was quite surprising," the Arsenal goalkeeper said, "that Klinsmann was able to give enthusiasm back to the people."

Not so long ago - about 16 days in fact - Jürgen Klinsmann was being mocked as "Grinsi-Klinsi". Germans did not like his apparent Californian affectations, his psycho-babble speak. They bridled that he had commuted from the United States, that he employed an American fitness coach, questioned the standard of the Bundesliga and - most relevantly - had overseen worrying results.

"He came in with some new ideas for the Germans and they were very hesitant to adopt them," Lehmann explained. "Then suddenly it worked out and everyone has a new optimism. His new approach - in training, physically, tactically - has created a completely new team. We have more flair but we are also playing a disciplined system."

This is a new Germany. And it is helping to create a new Germany. The team is playing what Klinsmann, heavily influenced by the Champions' League and tempo of Lehmann's club side as well as Barcelona, calls "high-paced football". The country is feeding of it, and the joyfulness of this tournament, to redefine perceptions about itself.

That may be a grand claim but it is one that Klinsmann, intelligent, articulate and someone who cuts across boundaries, does not baulk at. He is also not baulking at talk that he can lead Germany all the way to the final on 9 July and waxes lyrical about the team being carried along "on a cloud" by the fans. That the final is in Berlin, the city with the fastest, most symbolic pace of change, is all the more appropriate.

There is a downside. Maybe the Germans want this too much. On Saturday they breathlessly swept into a two-goal lead inside a dozen minutes, both from the energetic young striker Lukas Podolski, who linked brilliantly with the impressive Miroslav Klose, and overwhelmed the Swedes. But for goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson the lead could have doubled, trebled.

But there was also some darkness. The way the German players, Podolski in particular, appealed to the referee, Carlos Simon, to dismiss Teddy Lucic for a second yellow card stepped over the mark. The sight of Podolski, who looks, plays and irritates like Craig Bellamy, patting Simon on the back left a bitter taste.

The Munich fans appealed a little too fervently, whistled and booed the Swedes a little too much and the cacophony that rang out as Henrik Larsson prepared to take a second-half penalty was astonishing. Lehmann's time-wasting also stuck in the craw.

"When the crowd is pushing hard, sometimes the referee is a little bit weak and makes decisions that are not right," Lucic later said of his dismissal. "It felt a little bit like the reaction of the German players got me sent off." Such appealing has become a major feature of this year's World Cup.

Lucic's defensive partner, and Sweden's captain, Olof Mellberg, preferred to dwell on his own team's failings - which were manifold especially in the first 45 minutes - but also highlighted the threat of Podolski and Klose ("a good pair up front") with Michael Ballack coming through from midfield.

But there are weaknesses in this German team. Despite three clean sheets in their past three games they are vulnerable in defence and 10-man Sweden had opportunities.

"I feel you can get goals against them," Mellberg added. Germany will point to the fact that they also hit the post twice and but for Isaksson would have won even more comfortably.

Next up is Argentina, who Germany beat in the 1990 final in Italy when Klinsmann played. "Argentina are probably the strongest team in the tournament," Lehmann said. "They are a really good team technically and well-organised. But we never need to be frightened."

Klinsmann certainly isn't. He highlighted the closeness of the game between the two countries in last year's Confederations Cup and was pleased with the words of Cesar Menotti, who led Argentina to their first World Cup in 1978. He has hailed Klinsmann's "historic revolution". It will be even more seismic if they win on Friday.

Germany (4-4-2): Lehmann (Arsenal); Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Mertesacker (Hanover 96), Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund). Lahm (Bayern Munich); Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen), Frings (Werder Bremen), Ballack (Chelsea), Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich); Klose (Werder Bremen), Podolski (Cologne). Substitutes used: Borowski (Werder Bremen) for Schweinsteiger, 72; Neuville (Borussia Mönchengladbach) for Podolski, 74; Kehl (Borussia Dortmund) for Frings, 85.

Sweden (4-4-2): Isaksson (Rennes); Alexandersson (Gothenburg), Lucic (Haecken), Mellberg (Aston Villa), Edman (Rennes); Jonson (Djurgarden), Linderoth (Copenhagen), Kallstrom (Rennes), Ljungberg (Arsenal); Larsson (Barcelona), Ibrahimovic (Juventus).

Substitutes used: Hansson (Heerenveen) for Kallstrom, 39; Wilhelmsson (Anderlecht) for Jonson, 52; Allback (Copenhagen) for Ibrahimovic, 72.

Booked: Germany Frings; Sweden Lucic, Jonson, Allback.

Sent off: Sweden Lucic (for two cautions).

Referee: C Simon (Brazil).

Man of the match: Klose.