Podolski powers Germany past Sweden

June 24, 2006

MUNICH, Germany (AP) -- The game plan was to apply pressure from the start and score an early goal.

Mission accomplished.

Germany is in the quarterfinals of the World Cup and beginning to look and talk like a contender after a 2-0 victory over Sweden. Juergen Klinsmann's team needed only 12 minutes to break down the Swedes for a confidence-boosting win over one of the traditionally top European sides.

"I can't remember the last time Germany played such a first 30 minutes. It was fantastic," Klinsmann said. "It couldn't have been better."

Lukas Podolski scored both goals, in the fourth and 12th minutes, with his forward partner Miroslav Klose playing a big role. Podolski has three goals in the tournament, and the two have combined for seven.

Germany, 4-0 in the tournament, next plays in Berlin on Friday against Argentina, which beat Mexico 2-1 in extra time. The teams met in the 1986 and 1990 finals, with each team winning once.

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"We played Argentina twice in the past two years and we drew both times in very good games," Klinsmann said. "We have no fear.

"We are three-time champions, we are playing at home. It won't end in the quarterfinals. We are getting hungrier and hungrier, we are growing with every game."

Defender Teddy Lucic was sent off in the 35th for two yellow cards, and striker Henrik Larsson wasted a penalty kick in the 53rd to make matters worse for an overmatched Swedish team.

"We scored two quick goals and that gave us confidence," Podolski said. "We were lucky with that penalty, but we deserved to win."

Klinsmann took over the team two years ago, promising to bring Germany its fourth World Cup title. It may not have been an empty promise, although future opponents figure to provide much tougher tests.

The team was maligned before the World Cup after a string of lackluster warmup matches, and many Germans were skeptical of its chances. But the doubters have become believers and euphoric home crowds have lifted Germany's performances even more.

"We can be very pleased and proud of our performance," Klinsmann said. "We wanted to apply a lot of pressure from the start and score an early goal. We created a lot of chances and played at a very fast pace."

Germany certainly did get off to a flying start. Michael Ballack, having another outstanding match, passed to Klose, who faked two defenders and cut inside, but came down over diving goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson. The ball bounced back to Podolski, who drove it toward the net. Lucic got his head on it in a desperate attempt to save.

The second score was prettier.

Klose collected a pass just outside the box, drew three defenders and slipped a reverse pass into space for Podolski, who drove a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper in the 12th.

"We came out highly concentrated, scored two goals and kept right at it," Klinsmann said.

"Berlin, Berlin, we're going to Berlin," the crowd began singing. They might have meant for Friday's game -- or for the July 9 final in the German capital.

"We've grown with the World Cup," Podolski said.

The Germans didn't sit on their lead. Isaksson had to dive right to make a one-handed save on Ballack's shot from 20 yards, then Klose headed high and Bernd Schneider shot wide. Schneider later hit the goalpost.

By then, the chants had become a bit less respectful. "You are only furniture suppliers," sang the crowd, no doubt with Ikea in mind.

At the final whistle, the capacity crowd of 66,000 rose to its feet to salute the German team. That included the few thousands of people in yellow Sweden shirts.

"Germany got off to a really good start," Sweden coach Lars Lagerback said. "I don't want to speak about the referee, but he had some influence on the game. Maybe he did not stand up to the pressure. It's tough enough to play a team like Germany with 11 men, let alone with 10."

Lucic, booked earlier in the match, got into a tangle with Klose near midfield and pulled his shirt. Although the German did some tugging himself, Lucic got his second caution and was gone.

Sweden earned the penalty when Zlatan Ibrahimovic found Larsson with a pass to the middle. Larsson came down in contact with Christoph Metzelder, although the Swede had leaned into the German defender.

But Larsson shot high from the spot, and the "going to Berlin" chants grew louder.