Germany 3 Ecuador 0: Klose double leaves Germany fired up to take on 'big ones'

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The Independent Online

This city once kept hundreds of spies gainfully employed but England's footballing espionage agents will have gleaned little from their scouting mission yesterday. Ecuador rested half a team to protect against injury and paid for it with a disjointed display that delivered Group A to Germany.

The hosts are thus able to go to Munich for a quarter-final on Saturday, boosted by their second clean sheet and third successive victory. On the only other occasion the three-time winners began a World Cup with a trio of victories, as West Germany in 1970, their fourth game was a knock-out tie against England. This was famously won by Gerd Müller's extra-time goal after Sir Alf Ramsey had withdrawn Bobby Charlton.

Jürgen Klinsmann, the Germany coach, speaking before England's game with Sweden last night which was to decide the hosts' second-round opponents, said: "We are very satisfied and I'm looking forward to the knock-out games.

"I think the team is growing. Three victories have boosted our ego. The balance is very positive and now the real World Cup starts. We have no problem if people put us among the favourites. We are playing at home, we have a good team and we want to make it to the final. We do not want to overestimate our performance but I think the others will now have to take us into account."

Luis Suarez, the Ecuadorian coach, said: "Whoever we play I think it is going to be a very tough match. If it is England I believe they have one of the best teams in their history, and they have had many outstanding teams. We will have to be more aggressive when we try and get the ball, and keep possession when we have it. If there are many high balls, we will have to win headers as well. But if we play like we did today we will lose 3-0 again."

Germany had reason to be confident even before they saw the Ecuadorian team sheet. In 15 previous World Cup meetings against South American opposition they had lost just twice, against Argentina in 1986 and Brazil in 2002, both times in the final.

One of the 10 victories in those fixtures had been their only previous World Cup finals game in this stadium, the 1-0 win over Chile in 1974. Berlin was then a divided city and staged only three matches. This time it hosts six and Germany will hope to feature in two more, a quarter-final and the final.

While they will not meet any more opponents as uninterested as Ecuador, their prospects of achieving their target will have been increased by this comprehensive victory. Klinsmann's team is running on self-belief and Ecuador's priority should have been keeping the match tight and subduing the passionate home crowd. Instead, slack marking allowed Germany to take the lead in the fourth minute.

A corner was only partially cleared and, when it was returned, the spindly centre-half Per Mertesacker was allowed to turn and play the ball across to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who laid the ball back to Miroslav Klose, who drilled in his third goal of the tournament.

Had Ivan Kaviedes managed to reach Valencia's driven cross ahead of Jens Lehmann two minutes earlier the game could have progressed differently, but once Klose struck it became a one-sided match. Ecuador threatened only from distance and Jens Lehmann, in the Germany goal, was rarely troubled. Not so Cristian Mora and his defence, who were increasingly stretched by Germany's pace, strength and mobility. Bernd Schneider volleyed over from Philipp Lahm's cross, Michael Ballack drifted a 40-yard attempt wide after Mora had to come from his goal to deny Lukas Podolski, and Klose volleyed wide from Schneider's chip.

The inevitable second goal arrived as half-time approached. Ballack dinked a pass forward and Klose, having muscled past Geovanny Espinoza, read the bounce better than Mora and walked the ball past him for his ninth goal in World Cup finals. That took him fourth in the German rankings, one behind Helmut Rahn, two behind Klinsmann and five behind Müller. That trio all won World Cups, and Klose's chances of matching them were further enhanced when his strike partner, Lukas Podolski, turned in Schneider's 57th-minute cross to complete a classic breakaway goal, his first of the tournament.

Podolski is Germany's great striking hope but he had been struggling for confidence and had earlier missed a couple of decent chances. The match could have then become a rout but, with Podolski and Ballack missing opportunities, Germany settled for conserving their energy for the tougher chances to come.

"We are floating on a cloud of euphoria," said Ballack. "We are self-assured. We are fit. We play at home, We are ready, ready to tackle anyone, even the big ones."

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