Now that WAS a World Cup classic. The enmity between Serbia and Germany goes back 70 years, check your history books. But in 90 minutes yesterday, the partisan Serbians unravelled Joachim’s Loew’s masterplan in a dramatic 1-0 win.
What did we witness in Port Elizabeth? Just about everything. Germany’s first group match defeat at a World Cup finals since 1986. An early red card. The first penalty save of the 2010 World Cup. The first spot kick Germany have missed since 1974 against Poland. Nine yellow cards. Ridiculous handballs, big misses, angry men all over the place.
Oh, the drama. After their 4-0 opening win over Australia in Durban, the Germans were everybody’s fancied side after round one. But the second group games are throwing up all kinds of conundrums as the real stuff starts.
After just 13 minutes, Miroslav Klose, a scorer against Australia, found himself in Spanish referee Alberto Undiano’s little black book for a challenge on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Twenty minutes in, we’d had four bookings. Undiano was getting writer’s cramp. Worse was to follow.
After 32 minutes, Bayern Munich’s Klose, who has had such a troubled season, put in an apparently innocuous tackle on Dejan Stankovic and he was off. Shock rumbled around the stadium – and multiplied when, a minute later, Milos Krasic crossed, the World Cup’s tallest man Nikola Zigic nods it into the path of Milan Jovanovic and it’s 1-0.
Sami Khedira slammed a shot against the bar before half-time as the ten-man Germans attempted a spirited recovery. But at half-time it was 1-0 and the press box was slumped in exhaustion. Five yellow cards, one red, one big upset on the way.
Germany battled away one short... and finally the big moment. Over comes the cross and Manchester United centre-back Nemanja Vidic, so reliable in the Premier League, puts out a hand. Ridiculous, unbelievable handball. What a relief for Germany. Penalty and the eighth yellow card of the day.
But then up steps Lukas Podolski and low spot-kick is weak and easily denied by Vladimir Stojkovic. Incredible. Germany’s first miss from the spot apart from shoot-outs since Uli Hoeness in 1974 against Poland.
As the yellow cards continued to fly, Podolski continued to miss. Another off-form Bayern Munich striker who spent much of last season as a spectator, his 86th minute shank was his sixth off-target “shot” of the afternoon. At the other end, Serbia hit the woodwork twice through Jovanovic and Nikola Zigic as the game opened up.
And then the whistle. After the euphoria following the hammering of Australia, the headlines in Bilt blaring “We’ll blow you all away”... this. From the side that lost their opening game to Ghana. Suddenly Group D is blown wide open – with the Black Stars playing the Socceroos in Rustenburg tomorrow. Now I must go for a little lie down.