The biggest winner in Germany's emphatic 4-0 win over Australia was embattled coach Joachim Loew. But he and others are warning against exaggerating the significance of that victory.
Lukas Podolski paid back coach Loew's faith in him
Everybody loves a winner.
Germany's one-sided demolition of Australia on Sunday prompted frenetic celebrations in public viewing areas and parades of flag-flying, honking cars in the nation's cities.
Monday morning newspapers and television programs were hardly less euphoric in hailing the victory.
"This will be our World Cup," proclaimed Germany's leading tabloid Bild. "Loew was proven right in all respects."
Former German national goalkeeper Toni Schumacher seconded those sentiments.
"Despite all the criticism, Loew did everything right," the goalkeeping legend told the public television station ZDF.
Ironically, though, many of those now singing Loew's praises are the same ones who criticized the national team coach for sticking with out-of-form veterans Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski just a few days previously.
And cooler heads are cautioning fans not to read too much into one convincing result. One of them is Loew himself.
No euphoria, please
There were smiles all around after the big win
Right after the match, the 50-year-old coach was doing his best to dampen expectations. When asked if he thought he had done everything right, Loew said no.
"We've still got things to improve," Loew told reporters. "We all know Australia isn't the absolute measure of things, and of course we'll face tougher tests in the tournament...There's no reason for euphoria."
The coach did, however, take the opportunity to reiterate the logic behind starting Podolski and Klose, who both scored against Australia.
"Miroslav Klose has been with us since 2002 and has scored 11 World Cup goals," Loew said. "[Podolski] played his first tournament in 2004 and has always been one of our best players. I know I can trust these players, even if they do have patchy stretches."
Indeed, after a wretched club season with Cologne, Podolski looked convincing. He was an active and integrated part of Germany's midfield, and the shot that opened the scoring against Australia was measured at 126 kilometers (78 miles) per hour.
Klose broke a long scoring drought with his header
Klose's performance was more ambiguous. The goal he headed in the first half showcased one of the striker's strengths. But the three sitters he missed were also indications of why he spent much of this past season on Bayern Munich's bench.
On the other hand, youngsters Thomas Mueller and Mesut Oezil doubtlessly deserve the praise they are receiving, as Germany's offense clicked on all cylinders against the overmatched Australians.
Still open questions
More football-savvy commentators agreed that the Socceroos, a team Loew had talked up before the game, were not the sort of opponents to truly test the squad.
"Neither did the supposedly fearsome Australians break any legs, nor did they pose much of an offensive threat after the fourth minute," sports reporter Christina Goedecke wrote in the newsmagazine Der Spiegel. "After Podolski made it 1-0, their defensive strategy flew out the window."
Ahead of the World Cup, many people worried whether Sami Khedira could replace the injured Michael Ballack in midfield and whether the central defense of Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich would hold up under pressure.
Sami Khedira wasn't unduly troubled by Australia's Luke Wilkshire
All three of those players looked good on Sunday. But then again, it would have been difficult not to look good against Australia, who played without a true striker and then went down a in the first half.
The same goes for Germany's new No. 1 goalkeeper, 24-year-old Manuel Neuer, who was hardly tested in the match.
Germany's next game is against Serbia on Friday, and Loew is already building them up as tougher foes. But given their lackluster loss to Ghana on Sunday, the Serbians may not pose a top-level test either.
Indeed, Germany may have to wait until the knock-out stages to find out how they measure up against the real competition for the title.
That's the kind of problem, though, that all teams like to have. So in the meantime, the press and fans can keep up the enthusiasm generated by the most impressive start of any team thus far in the World Cup.
And Loew's new reputation as a footballing genius will survive at least for the next couple of days.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Chuck Penfold