Neuville comes to Germany's rescue
Substitute Oliver Neuville scored a stoppage-time winner as host nation Germany moved to the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Poland on Wednesday.
Germany had spurned countless chances, with their Polish-born strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski the main guilty parties, but Neuville popped up to score in the second minute of stoppage time, sliding in David Odonkor’s cross.
Neuville said that he was not a hero, merely the man who had made up for an earlier bad miss.
“I am not a hero—we should have scored more. I missed a great chance ten minutes earlier,” he said of an effort which hit the bar.
“Thank God it worked out as I got an important goal a minute before the end.”
It was heartbreak for Poland, who had been reduced to ten men in the final quarter hour, and who are virtually out of the tournament after successive defeats.
Germany will be guaranteed a place in the last 16 should Costa Rica fail to beat Ecuador on Thursday.
Klose said the Germans had had to show commendable patience before their breakthrough.
“We always believed in ourselves and in the end we got the breakthrough as one chance finally went in,” said Klose.
“You have to be patient.
We had enough chances but luck was not on our side.
However, we kept on plugging away and it paid off.”
Skipper Michael Ballack said the team deserved a pat no the back for its persistence.
“It was a good performance by the team as we kept on putting them under pressure. We controlled the game well in the first half and produced a number of chances,” said the captain.
“The fact we got a late goal may seem lucky, but it was wholly deserved.”
Poland coach Pawel Janas was devastated by the late goal that put his team out of the tournament.
“A goal right at the end of the match has taken away the possibility of making it through,” said Janas. “It was a mistake and it cost us a goal.”
Germany had their first of many chances in the 21st minute when Philipp Lahm delivered a perfect cross with his weaker left foot but Klose, scorer of two goals against Costa Rica, headed narrowly wide of the post.
As the first half progressed Ballack, back after missing the Costa Rica win with a calf injury, got a stranglehold on the match and Podolski missed a glorious chance on the stroke of half-time.
With the goal at his mercy Podolski, the new golden boy of German football, sliced his effort wide of the target.
Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann, once a prolific striker himself, could not hide his frustration, leaping out of the dug-out in anguish.
Five minutes into the second half there was more consternation as Klose failed to connect with a Ballack cross and his header trickled wide.
Poland were on the ropes, but a Ballack back pass almost put in Ebi Smolarek, who plays on this ground for Borussia Dortmund. However, Germany keeper Jens Lehmann read the danger.
Ballack was then booked for a cynical foul after 58 minutes and must now watch his step.
Polish midfielder Radoslaw Soboloweski did not watch his, collecting a second yellow on 75 minutes for a body check.
Germany pushed on and hit the crossbar twice before Neuville took the roof off with a last-gasp strike.
It was a sweet moment for Neuville, who was a surprise choice in Klinsmann’s World Cup squad ahead of Schalke 04 striker Kevin Kuranyi.
The win was Germany’s first over a European rival in the final stages of a tournament in 10 years.—AFP