Schweinsteiger rallies Klinsmann's fractious fighting force

Bastian Schweinsteiger was said to have bad boy potential after being discovered by Bayern Munich officials keeping company with his girlfriend in the whirlpool of the club's training ground.

He said he was merely cementing a relationship.

Yesterday, he was at it again at the dawn of the 18th World Cup. Cementing a relationship, that is. This time, though, it was with the entire German nation.

Though his much more experienced team-mate, Miroslav Klose, did most to relieve the pressure on the embattled coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, with two well-taken goals, it was the 21-year-old midfielder who most perfectly expressed the philosophy of the former German hero.

Maybe the least rated German team in a long history of extraordinary achievement, Klinsmann's men showed they areprepared to slave their way to an eighth World Cup final. However, if the work rate was established in the first 17 minutes - which saw three goals, one from the enigmatic former Premiership star Paulo Wanchope which gave Costa Rica a foothold in the game - there was a worrying shortfall in class and authority.

When the full-back Philipp Lahm smashed in an early goal, Klinsmann embraced Michael Ballack, who is said to be angry over the decision to leave him out while awaiting full fitness.

Ballack responded warmly enough as the Munich crowd sensedGermany may just have found another relentless fighting force. That happy thought, though, was somewhat reduced by the unwillingness of the skilful Costa Ricans to go quietly.

Another Wanchope goal in the second half brought the furrows back to Klinsmann's brow, but the Germans are nothing if not totally committed and Schweinsteiger was always at the heart of the action.

He accepted the responsibility created by Ballack's absence and there were times when the Germans indeed looked likely to find some early and convincing rhythm. That hope, though, was damaged by the ease with which Wanchope again outwitted the German defensive lines. With England possible opponents in the second round, the Germans need to work on defensive security and a lighter and more sophisticated touch.

In the end, there was a considerable gap between effort and execution. But then, no doubt Klinsmann was encouraged by the fact his players seemed willing to run endlessly on behalf of the fatherland.

Certainly, though, the concern that Wanchope would again produce a cutting edge was not dispelled by a tide of pressure laid down as the second half wore on. Germany faced the nightmare of an imploding team after spending €5bn (£3.55m) on making this the most spectacular and efficient World Cup of them all.

It is a perilous ambition without a contented team. The worst fears, however, were eased with a superb drive by the midfielder Torsten Frings. That made the game safe.

Klinsmann and Ballack embraced again and the suspicion must be that, for the next few weeks, German ambitions will be as concentrated and united as ever in the 52 years that have followed their first stunning success.

They are a team who believe they will always find a way.

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