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Germany's blend of youth and experience delivers on promise

While the focus was undoubtedly on how Germany would begin its World Cup campaign on Sunday night, plenty of interest was being afforded to Joachim Loew's chosen line-up and its promise of attacking football.

Germany's Cacau celebrates after scoring during the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Cacau scored the fourth in a rampant night for Germany

Germany had arrived in South Africa with the youngest squad in over 70 years and with an attacking mentality running through the ranks. Casual observers and hardcore German soccer fans were all curious as to how Germany 2010 would be set up and whether the promise of exciting, offensive football would just be a smokescreen for a return to the safe, traditional approach of old.

This was the first test for the youthful Germans in World Cup battle proper, pitting the second youngest team at this World Cup - after Group D opponents Ghana - against the oldest in Durban's impressive Moses Mabhida Stadium. The hugely experienced Australians were expected to provide a stern test for this new breed and no-one would have blamed Joachim Loew for going with a cautious approach in Germany's opening game.

Instead, the Germany coach threw Holger Badstuber into his back four, Sami Khedira into the empty midfield shoes of the absent Michael Ballack while the exciting creative duo of Mesut Oezil and Thomas Mueller were charged with opening up the Australian defense. Keeping goal was the equally youthful Manuel Neuer - Germany's new No.1. Loew also had Marcel Jansen, Toni Kroos, Marko Marin and Jerome Boateng on the bench.

Australia's Luke Wilkshire, left, is challenged by Germany's Sami Khedira during the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Sami Khedira was outstanding in Germany's midfield

Neuer looked nervous at kick-off, unsurprisingly given the 22-year-old's experience only stretched to six games, but an early, safely-gathered ball seemed to settle his nerves.

Just how much he had settled was obvious just three minutes later when Australia had the first clear chance. The Schalke keeper stood up well to block the close-range shot and Philipp Lahm cleared. Australia's subsequent sorties found the young Schalke stopper in even more confident form, punching clear and smothering at feet like an old pro. His distribution was also considered and clever.

Khedira raises the question: Michael who?

Sami Khedira looked to have understood what Loew wanted from him in his role as a protector of the back four, which was important as the Australians had flown out of the blocks with a surprisingly high-tempo attacking game.

Young Holger Badstuber appeared a little shell-shocked when faced with a marauding Brett Emerson so Khedira's intelligence was a Godsend on the left flank on a number of occasions. As the game wore on, Badstuber may have seemed quiet but only because Khedira had the left side sewn up in front of him.

Germany's Thomas Mueller (13) scores his side's third goal past Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer during the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Mueller (No.13) performed like a seasoned international

Equally impressive was the Stuttgart man's willingness to play as box-to-box midfielder, popping up regularly in the Australian penalty area in support of the attack. He could have had at least two goals himself. Such was his dynamism that it will not come as a surprise if Khedira permanently replaces the fading Ballack.

Germany's breakthrough had the stamp of youth all over it. Mesut Oezil drifted through the midfield and poked a ball beyond the Australian defense for Thomas Mueller to sprint onto. The Bayern Munich youngster's cut back looked too deep but it was inch perfect for Lukas Podolski to hammer home from the edge of the box.

Mueller's performance beyond his years

Mueller and Oezil seemed to be everywhere, one always offering the other an option when the Germans attacked. Mueller, playing effectively as a winger at times, was shredding the Socceroos left back and delivering the kind of crosses that forwards dream of.

His inclusion was being constantly justified as the 20-year-old not only proved to be an integral link in the attacking chain but on more than one occasion he had the chance to put his name on the score sheet. When he finally hit the net with a goal of his won, it was only what he deserved after a performance beyond his years.

Germany's Miroslav Klose celebrates scoring during the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Klose rolled back the years with a goal-scoring return

Oezil was also constant threat, dancing through tackles at will and showing intelligent movement. He nearly had a cheeky goal to his name on the half-hour mark but his chip over keeper Mark Schwarzer was cleared off the line by Socceroos captain Lucas Neill. Ten minutes later the Werder Bremen star saw another chance go begging after stripping Neill for pace.

Germany 2010 could be a vintage team

While a lot of the attacking intent was coming from the youngsters, the execution was coming from the old guard, even if Podolski and Philipp Lahm – the provider for Miroslav Klose's goal to make it 2-0, could hardly be called pensioners.

The promised offensive formation and style was truly in evidence and paying off in spades. The first two goals may have come from the 2006 strike force but the vim and vitality which had proved too much for the Aussies was of the 2010 vintage.

When Cacau came on and made it four after Mueller's goal had put the game out of sight, no-one could say that this was a typical Germany performance. Australia hadn't been worn down in style of German sides of the past - they had been torn apart by a new approach.

Germany, with its young stars and experienced heads had delivered on its promise. Workmanlike is out, exhilarating is in.

Author: Nick Amies

Editor: Richard Connor

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