FRANKFURT, June 15 (Reuters) - Host nation Germany survived a bout of first-night nerves to beat Australia 4-3 in a frantic Confederations Cup match in Group A on Wednesday.
Germany led twice in the first half with opportunist goals
from Kevin Kuranyi and Per Mertesacker but amateurish defending
allowed Australia to equalise through a Josip Skoko free-kick
and a fine finish from John Aloisi.
Michael Ballack converted a 60th minute penalty to restore
the lead and Germany's captain set up 20-year-old forward Lukas
Podolski to give them some breathing space in the 88th minute.
There was still time for Aloisi to score his second of the
night but Germany came through a nervous last few seconds to go
top of the group after Argentina had earlier beat Tunisia 2-1 in
the tournament's opening game.
'We didn't really expect a result like that before the
game,' said Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann. 'Starting with a
win is extremely important and we're very satisfied.'
Germany, playing their first competitive match since Euro
2004, attacked gamely but Ballack was poor in the first half and
their passing suffered as a result.
There were plenty of mistakes but it was still hugely
entertaining as the first three goals came in a breathless
six-minute spell midway through the first half.
Germany went ahead in the 18th minute when Kuranyi diverted
Arne Friedrich's long shot, giving keeper Mark Schwarzer no
Australia, Confederations Cup runners-up in 1997 and
enjoying a rare moment in the international spotlight, grabbed
their first equaliser almost immediately.
Robert Huth conceded a free kick by barging Aloisi out of
Kahn's way and Germany were left looking embarrassed when
Torsten Frings and Thomas Hitzlsperger jumped up and Skoko
squirted the ball underneath them.
Germany, playing more with heart than head, continued to
pour forward and went ahead for the second time from a corner.
The ball drifted over towards the far post and Bernd
Schneider cut a pass to the giant centre-back Mertesacker, who
took one touch before crashing the ball in.
Flat-footed defending then allowed Aloisi to race clear on
the left of the penalty and sweep a shot past Kahn, levelling
the scores again in the 31st minute.
Schwarzer made two outstanding saves at the start of the
second half, from long shots by Bastian Schweinsteiger and
Frings, before Friedrich was blocked by Ljubo Milicevic, giving
Ballack his penalty.
Germany looked much more assured after the third goal and
they carved out a fourth when Ballack surged down the left and
cut back for Podolski.
There was more late drama when Skoko set up Aloisi, who
converted at the second attempt after Kahn had pulled off a good
A last-gasp equaliser would have been in keeping with a
gloriously unpredictable game but there were only seconds
remaining after Aloisi's goal and Germany held on for a
much-needed boost in confidence.
'I thought we played well but you can't expect to concede
four goals and win the game,' said Australia coach Frank Farina.