Polish-born forward Lukas Podolski ended Germany’s 12-year wait for a European Championship win on Sunday with two goals as his side’s Euro 2008 campaign began with a 2-0 win over Poland.
Polish-born striker Lukas Podolski guided German to a 2-0 win over Poland
Having turned 23 last Wednesday, Podolski combined with Germany’s other Polish-born forward Miroslav Klose for his first goal on 20 minutes and followed up with an unstoppable volley on 72 minutes.
After Group B rivals Croatia had earlier got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over co-hosts Austria in Vienna, the result puts the Germans top of their group and coach Joachim Loew praised his team.
The last time Germany won a European Championship game was back in June 30 1996 when they beat the Czech Republic to win Euro 1996 at London’s Wembley Stadium.
There had been some controversy last Wednesday when Polish tabloid Super Express printed a mocked up picture of Poland coach Leo Beenhakker holding the severed heads of Loew and Germany captain Michael Ballack.
Both sides had played down any problem, but 140 German fans were arrested here in the city centre on Sunday, although fans in the stadium were well-behaved.
Germany were dominating by this stage and when the ball fell to Podolski on 72 minutes he drove his shot into the top corner of the net to give his side some breathing space.
German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann produced a string of saves as Poland applied some late pressure, but his defence held.
The result means Group B’s two unbeaten sides will meet Thursday when Germany return here to face Croatia.
Ballack said he was looking forward to playing Croatia but cautioned: “I think it’s an open game – both teams are very strong.”
Austria 0 v Crotia 1
Croatia opened their Euro 2008 account with a predictable but unconvincing 1-0 victory over co-hosts Austria at the Ernst-Happel Stadium here in Vienna on Sunday.
There were no surprises in a match between one of the outsiders for a run to the title and a team ranked 92nd in the FIFA world rankings – below even the likes of Guatemala, Libya and Trinidad and Tobago.
It took only four minutes for Austria to be exposed as the minnows that they are in this competition as Rene Aufhauser clumsily bundled over Ivica Olic in the box.
Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz was booked for protesting over-zealously but there was little doubt that referee Pieter Vink from the Netherlands had got it spot on.
So too did new Tottenham signing Luka Modric, who calmly slotted the ball down the middle as former Sunderland goalkeeper Jurgen Macho dived to his right.
Croatia should have doubled their lead on 35 minutes when a deep cross from Manchester City’s Vedran Corluka fell to Mladen Petric at the back post, but he lashed a left foot volley miles off target when composure, and maybe even a touch to bring the ball under control, was needed.
Austria had a brief period of pressure before the break when Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa palmed away a dangerous cross from Joachim Standfest and then Josip Simunic cut out a centre from Martin Marnik.
Pletikosa was then called into action again to punch clear Ivanschitz’s corner before Standfest headed high and wide with a far post header from a deep cross.
Modric got behind the Croatia defence on the hour mark after a mistake from Pogatetz but Martin Stranzl sniffed out the danger and cleared the Spurs man’s cross before Olic could get to it.
Just as had happened in the first half, Austria came more into things later on and the introduction of the lively Umit Korkmaz, as well as veteran Croatian born forward Ivica Vastic, added a spark to the hosts.
Even spurred on by a crowd of more than 50,000 people, Austria caused a few scares for the Croatians, who actually came closest to scoring when substitute Igor Budan’s flick from a Corluka cross was deflected just past the near post.
Moments later another substitute Roman Kienast almost levelled but his flicked header drifted wide.