Durban: The great weight of German expectation will slam headlong into a wall of Australian defensive grit and muscle when the spectacular new Moses Mabhida stadium hosts its first World Cup match on Sunday.
Germany’s World Cup pedigree -- three titles, four-times losing finalists and three third places -- demands success of Joachim Loew’s team regardless of injury problems and stuttering strikers.
Deprived by injury of captain Michael Ballack and four other players, Germany’s youngest tournament squad for three quarters of a century could have hoped for an easier Group D opener (1830) than to face a hugely experienced Australia side.
“They have an unbelievable passion, unbelievable organisation and a near-perfect defensive structure,” Loew said of the Australians.
“It is a very tough first match but our players will be confident and we want to win that match.”
Loew is likely to stick with Miroslav Klose as his sole striker, hoping he can rediscover the scoring form noticeably absent for Bayern Munich this season but which made him the tournament’s top scorer four years ago on home soil.
The 32-year-old will be looking for support from three attacking midfielders, including Lukas Podolski on the left wing, to help him unpick the Australia defence.
“We have to find the gaps,” Podolski told reporters. “We have to play from the wings. Going through the middle will be very tough.”
Australia’s Dutch coach Pim Verbeek has midfield goalscoring threat Tim Cahill and his most talented attacker, Harry Kewell, fit again after injury.
Kewell has not played in any of their warm-up matches, however, so is unlikely to start for the Socceroos with Josh Kennedy set to retain the role of lone striker.
It was organisation and strong defence, however, that got Australia through to the knockout stage in Germany four years ago, where they were unlucky to lose to eventual champions Italy.
“I think the same thing for every team coming into the World Cup is you have to be defensively compact first before you go off and try win the game,” Cahill said. “It is a massive compliment for us to be as compact as we are.”
While Germany are eager to seal their qualification into the next round before their final match against Ghana at higher altitude in Johannesburg, Verbeek has a more patient strategy.
“As I have always said, the group will be won in the last two games,” he said.