Late goal brings joy to hosts
Germany all but clinched a spot in the round of 16 by defeating Poland 1-0 early yesterday Korean time, when substitute forward Oliver Neuville scored an injury-time goal. Combined with a 4-2 victory over Costa Rica in the opening match last week, Germany now sits atop the Group A standings with six points. It will face Ecuador on Tuesday in the final preliminary round game.
Germany came out attacking behind raucous crowds in Dortmund, and Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc was tested early and often.
Forward Miroslav Klose, who scored twice against Costa Rica, broke free in the penalty box at the 10-minute mark, only to be denied by Boruc. Midway through the first half, Klose's header off a cross from defender Philipp Lahm just missed the right post.
Lahm, a diminutive 22-year-old listed at 170 centimeters (5-foot-7) and 62 kilograms (137 pounds) on FIFA's official Web site, set up forward Lukas Podolski with a pretty pass in the 36th minute, though the kick went straight to Boruc. Just before the halftime, Lahm teed another one up for Podolski from left, but Boruc was there to stop him that time, too.
Poland was outshot 8-3 on the game. Ultimately, playing with 10 men after Radaslow Sobolewski's ejection for a second yellow card in the 75th minute proved too much for the Poles.
In the last seconds, Neuville slid home a low cross from another substitute David Odonkor for the winning marker. After the match, German coach Juergen Klinsmann praised the efforts of his subs.
“We wanted to bring more speed into the match, and both substitutes are fast,” he told Reuters. “They brought some life to the match.”
In the opening match for Group H, the last to begin first-round play, Spain dominated Ukraine 4-0. It was Spain's 23rd match without defeat since Luis Aragones took over as head coach after Euro 2004 in Portugal. Spain had not won an opening game in the World Cup since 1950.
Spain took control early by scoring twice in the first 17 minutes. Their defensive backs, featuring Carlos Puyol and Pablo, completely shut down Ukraine's offense, which mustered just two shots on goal and committed eight offsides to Spain's none. Andriy Shevchenko, European Player of the Year in 2004, didn't record a shot.
The game represented a changing of the guard of sort for Spain. Youngsters Fernando Torres, 22, and David Villa, 24, were the starting forwards ahead of 28-year-old veteran Raul, Spain's all-time leading scorer with 43 goals in 96 international matches. They rewarded Aragones' faith by scoring three of the team's four goals. Raul entered the game in place of Villa in the 55th minute, but was not a factor in the match.
Villa scored twice, the second score coming on a penalty, the first of this World Cup. Torres drew that penalty, which took Ukrainian defender Vladyslav Vashchuk out of the game with a red card. He later added a goal himself in the 81st minute.
In the last preliminary match, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia played to a 2-2 draw. Tunisia was seeking its first World Cup win since 1978, while the Saudis hadn't won on the world stage since they reached the round of 16 in 1994.
The Asian representative was moments away from the victory, thanks to a fine kick in the 84th minute off the left foot of Sami Al Jaber, the Saudi soccer legend who has now scored in World Cups 12 years apart. But Tunisia's 192-centimeter-tall defender Radhi Jaidi knocked in a header on a cross from Zied Jaziri in injury time for the equalizer.
On Tuesday, the Saudis will play Ukraine and Tunisia will face Spain.
by Yoo Jee-ho