Serbia grabbed a historic first World Cup win as an independent nation by defeating three time champions Germany. In a game that was marred by harsh refereeing decisions, Milan Jovanovic scored the decider, just after the expulsion of German striker Miroslave Klose. The Serbian win leaves the group interestingly poised.
Germany started with an attractive 4-2-3-1 formation. Schweinsteiger and Khedira played as defensive screens, while Muller, Ozil and Podolski supported Klose. Serbia decided to start with a five-man-midfield in order to stifle the German supply line.
The game began, as expected, with Germany trying to attack, while the Serbs relied on counter-attacks. Both the teams presses high up the field and did not allow any extra space to each other. The pattern of the first half was established as early as the seventh minute when Miroslav Klose was booked for a tackle from behind.
Germany continued to threaten the Serbian goal with some good link-up play between Podolski and Ozil. Podolski drove a piledriver which just went wide. By this time the yellow cards had started to flow thick and fast. Both Serbian full-backs received their first warnings in a space of three minutes. Kolarov received his yellow for a challenge on Muller, while Ivanovic was cautioned for a tackle on Podolski.
In the mean time, the Serbian wingers came to life. Milos Krasic was a major disappointment against Ghana, but he slowly turned into Serbia’s main protagonists. He pushed back the inexperienced Holger Badstuber and frequently made darting runs with Ivanovic supporting him. German defensive midfielder Sami Khedira received a yellow card midway through the first half, while his captain duly followed him with a card on the 33rd minute.
The turning point of the match came eight minutes before halftime when Miroslav Klose challenged Stankovic in midfield; a challenge worthy of a free-kick. To everyone’s surprise, the Spanish referee waved another yellow card, Klose’s second, sending off Germany’s second all time top scorer in world cup history.
Germany were still reeling from that decision when Stankovic found Krasic on the right wing. The winger floated in a cross towards Serbia’s giant striker, Nikola Zigic, who headed the ball down to Milan Jovanovic. Jovanovic calmly chested the ball, before knocking it past the incoming German goalkeeper Oliver Neuer.
Germans have often been hailed as the ultimate comeback kings. They have a rich history of getting results, despite trailing. In the 1954 world cup final, they trailed Hungary 2-0 before coming back to win 3-2. Holland scored a goal within the first minute of the 1974 final, but Germany still ended up winning 2-1. The Germans needed to do something similar to avoid a defeat in this game. They continued to push for the equaliser. The best chance for the Germans came near the end of the first half when the Serbian keeper came dangerously off the line as Khedira’s thunderous shot hit the crosspiece. Three defenders on the goal line prevented an effort from Podolski on the rebound.
Jovanovic wheels off after dealing the killer blow
The teams went into the ‘lemon break’, with Serbia leading and Joachim Lowe with a lot of thinking to do. As expected, Die Mannschaft came back firing on all cylinders in the second half. The dangerous interplay between Khedira and Podolski was causing a lot of problems to Ivanovic on the right. Thomas Muller cut back from the wings to set up a long ranger for Schweinsteiger, but he managed to only hit it straight to Stojkovic. Just before the hour mark, Ozil found Podolski on the far right, and Germany’06’s best youth player broke free, but pulled his shot wide of the goal. Two minutes later, it was Podolski again, who tried to score from a narrow angle, but hit his shot well wide of the crossbar.
On the hour mark, Germany were handed a lifeline. Without any sort of pressure from German strikers, in a moment of madness, the experienced Serbian centre-back Nemanja Vidic handled the ball. It was a case of deja-vu; this penalty being similar to the penalty Serbia conceded against Ghana. Podolski stepped up to take the kick. However, it was a very disappointing effort, as the shot neither had power nor the placement. Serbian keeper Stojkovic pulled off a very important save. German players are usually the gold standard for penalty kicks. But for once, the law of averages got to them. This was the first time a German player had missed a penalty in the World Cup since 1974.
That penalty somehow awakened Serbians as they began to venture forward. On the 67th minute, Krasic dodged two German defenders and set up Jovanovic, whose shot hit the woodwork. Desperate for a goal, Lowe brought on Marco Marin and Cacau. But it was Serbia who curved out another good chance. Krasic was again involved in the play, as he delivered a delicious cross to Zigic. Despite climbing above the shortest defender on the pitch, Philipp Lham, Zigic couldn’t keep his header down as he hit the cross-piece. Germany were being frustrated by the well organized Serbian defence, despite having a good share of ball possession.
However, they missed the creativity of Mesut Ozil, who was substituted by Lowe. Mario Gomez was brought for a final push, but to no avail. Serbia earned their first world cup victory as an independent nation. Germany were subjected to their first group league defeat in 24 years.
Milos Krasic lived up to his hype…
The Hard Tackles Player of the Match: Milos Krasic (Serbia)
The right winger from Serbia put in some memorable performances for CSKA Moscow in the last season. He had a disappointing game against Ghana, but lived up to the hype in this one. Each of Serbia’s three goal scoring opportunities came from him. His cross paved the way for the winning goal. He set Jovanovic who hit the post in the 2nd half. Zigic’s header also came off a Krasic cross. He ensured that Badstuber was kept busy on one flank, this robbed Germany off the width in one flank and their shape while going up was hampered.
The Hard Tackle’s Referee Report Card:
Alberto Undiano Mallenco (Spain) – D
Quite possibly, the worst game from an official till now. The Spanish referee has a reputation for dishing out frequent yellow cards. He was no different in this game. A total of nine yellow cards were shown, two of them resulted in a red which arguably changed the complexion of the game. Each of the four Serbian defenders received cautions, while Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Khedira ensured that the balance was kept on the German side. The referee’s over-enthusiasm to control the players also hampered the usual flow of the game.
SERBIA 1-0 GERMANY
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Germany Line-up: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Holger Badstuber (Gomez 77′), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller (Marco Marin 70′), Mesut Özil (Cacau 70′), Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose
Manager: Joachim Löw
Caution: Lahm, Schwinsteiger, Khedira
Sent-off : Klose
Serbia Line-up: Vladimir Stojkovic, Branislav Ivanovic, Neven Subotic, Nemanja Vidic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Milos Krasic, Milos Ninkovic (Gojko Kacar 70′), Zdravko Kuzmanovic (Petrovic 75′), Dejan Stankovic, Milan Jovanovic (Lazovic 79′), Nikola Zigic
Caution: Branislav Ivanovic, Neven Subotic, Nemanja Vidic, Aleksandar Kolarov
Scorers: Milan Jovanovic
Sent off: None