Skysports.com reflects on Lessons Learnt to offer our take on how things are unfolding in South Africa.
Last Updated: 15/06/10 8:06pm
With the World Cup still very much in its infancy we're finding out more and more about each nation day by day. Throughout the tournament skysports.com will be reflecting on Lessons Learnt to offer our take on how things are unfolding in South Africa. Here, Alex Dunn takes a look at a Germany side seemingly on the up and ponders over how Chris Killen finds himself on the world's biggest stage...
The Germans are coming
It is one of football's - no make that life's - great mysteries, why on the eve of every World Cup tournament England are heralded as having the best set of players since '66 and Germany are dismissed as being present merely to make up the numbers.
Ever since Lothar, Jurgen, Rudi and co. called time on the most celebrated of careers, Germany has been seen as lacking the type of characters that make up World Cup-winning sides.
It's true that to look at their teamsheet there is an absence of the star names of bygone eras but what Joachim Low has done is take to the next level the work Jurgen Klinsmann started four years ago; to turn Germany from disciples of pragmatism to playing a modern, expansive and exciting brand of European football.
The type of football England should be playing.
Low's casual but stylish touchline attire gives the air of a man of thought, a man open to ideas and it is an inclination to place as much emphasis on adventure as he does discipline that serves his players well.
While dismantling an Australia side that looked woefully short in almost every department (coach Pim Verbeek has been labelled a 'Pimbecile' down under) will not cower the pre-tournament favourites, England's players will be aware finishing top of their group could hold a significant advantage for the next round.
On the eve of the World Cup, Low caused more than the odd raised eyebrow back in Germany when he said: "We want to be able to embarrass our opponents with our playing style."
Here was a German willing to dispense with the stereotype of playing mechanical football; the ability to win without playing well was deemed something to be called on only if absolutely necessary, rather than being a point of national pride.
Germany retain a steely backline and ferocious competitive spirit but such qualities are complemented by a guileful playfulness that has allowed the likes of Mesut Ozil to play with a wit in possession that proved infectious to his team-mates against Australia. The Werder Bremen schemer, of whom Arsene Wenger is reportedly a fan, looks ready to make a name for himself on the biggest stage of all. And if he does, Arsenal's budget would struggle to land him.
Of Turkish descent, Ozil claims his mixed heritage makes him the player he is. The 21-year-old credits his Turkish side as being responsible for his 'technique and feeling for the ball', while 'the discipline and attitude is the German part'. Ozil, in this sense, has become a potent symbol for the modern brand of football that Low has introduced, merging orthodox qualities of efficiency with flair traditionally the reserve of Latin nations.
Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have once more woken from their domestic hibernation on cue to look like a partnership of real potency on the international arena, with the emergence of Thomas Muller and Cacau being further cause for optimism.
Philipp Lahm is arguably the best attacking full-back in South Africa and Germany's skipper, in the absence of Michael Ballack, is revelling in the licence to buccaneer with abandon that Low has afforded him. In a World Cup to date that has seen a glut of woeful deliveries from the flanks, the diminutive defender is a human metronome.
Franz Beckenbauer's attack on England's performance against USA was nothing short of scathing and Low could probably do without the Kaiser providing Fabio and his players with ready-made motivation ahead of a potential clash between the two nations in the last 16.
Whether he has a point about England 'going backwards' and returning to 'the bad old times of kick and rush' is a hypothesis that will require further scrutiny after Friday's clash with Algeria.
Dutch go German
If the Germans played like Holland against Australia then the Dutch played like Germans against Denmark. Big things were expected of Bert van Marwijk's Oranje but their opener against the Danes was more job done than Total Football.
A limited but resilient Denmark side was undone by the scruffiest own goal and Dirk Kuyt's late second but the central talking point to emerge from the Soccer City clash was whether Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder are too similar to play in the same side.
It seems midfield conundrums are not providing headaches for Fabio Capello alone.
The talented duo seemed hamstrung by one another's presence as too often they occupied the same space, as van der Vaart's natural inclination to come inside and drop deep turned what should have been an expansive front three into a narrow and crowded midfield that became too easy for the Danes to defend against.
Eljero Elia's introduction provided Holland with a spark and vitality from the flanks they'd previous missed and it seems likely van der Vaart may have to settle for a place on the bench against Japan - regardless of whether Arjen Robben is passed fit to feature.
Best of the rest
* Italy looked ponderous, fallible at the back and lacking an attacking punch in the first half against Paraguay. After the break Marcello Lippi demonstrated why he's so revered as a coach as he made the right changes, at the right time, to get the Azzurri back into a contest that looked to be slipping away from them. The world champions' performance was no better than England's against USA, but like Capello's men, Italy are traditionally slow starters and will likely only get better despite accusations of being too old and lacking any world class talent.
* The talk is that vuvuzelas are to be filtered out of World Cup broadcasts after a number of complaints were made about the constant buzzing sound of the plastic horns used by fans in South Africa. To think, World Cup crowds making noise...have they no shame? What is the point of awarding the World Cup to a country like South Africa if any points of cultural difference are to be filtered out to accommodate the pedestrian viewing expectations of western armchair dwellers?
* The skysports.com office is currently glued to the game we've all been waiting for: New Zealand versus Slovakia. Two of my colleagues have bid to keep up their interest by punting on New Zealand at 7-1. No such desperate measures from me; Chris Killen's presence alone has me enthralled. Congratulations Chris, you've become the only former Oldham player I've ever booed to appear at a World Cup finals. Big things were expected when we paid a handsome £250,000 to lure Killen from Manchester City. By the time he left Boundary Park to join Hibernian, criticising the club en route, he had cost the Latics £36,000 a goal. Then manager Ronnie Moore summed it up perfectly: "He should be on his knees saying, 'thank you very much'." There's hope for us all yet...
* Apparently, the new Adidas Jabulani ball is an absolute nightmare. Lionel Messi didn't seem to have too much problem with it against Nigera. Funny that....