German coach, Jurgen Kilnsmann, had been heavily criticized for coaching decisions and living arrangements prior to this match. Fans and players alike had questioned whether it was the best decision to live in Florida while attempting to train the German national side.
Further controversy surrounded the host nation before kick off. This time it was centered on arguably the only truly world class player in the German side – Michael Ballack. Yesterday afternoon, Klinsmann had declared that Ballack would not be playing because he still had not recovered from injury but only hours later the player himself came forward to report that he was fully fit and felt able to play in Germany’s opener. Clearly Klinsmann didn’t intend to take any chances or pull any punches as the German star player was left out of the team.
Despite Germany’s woeful results and even more woeful defensive record in recent months it was they who took the initiative in the 6th minute. Lahm scored his first international goal in two years with an unstoppable effort impeccably placed into the top corner of the net. Porras, the Costa Rican keeper, could do nothing to prevent it from finding the target and the host nation party started earlier than expected. The tension between coach Klinsmann and star player Ballack was difficult to spot as the two celebrated jubilantly together in the dugout.
In the same way as the first goal showed the Germans capabilities up front, the equalizer showed their frailties at the back. Despite claims to the contrary, Paulo Wanchope was definitely played onside by at least one sleeping German defender and keeping his cool and his composure the Costa Rican striker coolly placed the ball around Lehmann in the 12th minute.
Still the score was far from settled and within 5 more minutes the Germans had taken the lead again. Brilliant build up play by Schneider led to an easily and calmly taken poacher’s goal by Miroslav Klose, celebrating his 28th birthday in style.
The Germans retained the lion’s share of possession throughout the rest of the first half but there were still flashes of appalling defensive work being brandished around the pitch giving the Costa Ricans several half chances during the opening match of their 3rd World Cup finals.
The 2nd half began in similar fashion to the first with positive attack but poor defense from the host nation. Both teams were trying speculative long-range efforts in order to try and take advantage of the new ball that has been labeled as “goalkeeper unfriendly” and heavily criticized in many camps.
The 61st minute saw Germany further compound their lead as Klose first headed the ball goalward only to be denied by the goalkeeper. However, he wasn’t to be denied when he struck the rebound firmly into the back of the net to give him his second and Germany their third of the afternoon.
Some tenuous penalty claims were correctly denied in the 64th minute quickly proceeded by a change in personnel from the Costa Ricans. Drummond replaced Martinez in a bid to try and upset the German party once again. It was inevitable, though, that poor defending would lead to Paulo Wanchope scoring his second goal of the game leaving Germany dangerously close to an upset. With the score now 3-2 to the Germans it was impressive for Wanchope that this was only their second attempt on goal.
Klose left the pitch in the 78th minute, denying him the opportunity to become the first ever player to score a hat trick in the opening match of the finals but he didn’t seem to mind too much,
Three minutes from time, Frings popped up with a blistering goal from distance that was definitely aided by the lightweight ball but still perfectly finished and sealed a 4-2 win for the host nation.
The 4-2 score line was the highest scoring opening match in the history of the World Cup and while it was a comfortable score line for the Germans it must have also reiterated their defensive frailties. A stronger opposition will almost certainly take advantages of lapses in concentration and big holes in the defense. It was, however, a fantastic game for the neutral to watch and an excellent start to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.