Germany 2-2 Ivory Coast: Podolski Strikes At The Death To Spare German Blushes

Germany's out-of-form striker netted a brace today in a very emotional match.
From an injury-diminished squad, Germany coach Joachim Loew made a few noteworthy selections in his starting eleven. In goal, Tim Wiese was picked ahead of Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng started at right-back; and Lukas Podolski and Stefan Kiessling were selected in attack.

In somewhat of a surprising move, Vahid Halilhodzic decided to recall Salomon Kalou, who was previously dropped due to an altercation in training. Didier Drogba, who had been nearing fitness, was kept out of the starting lineup as a precautionary measure.

At kickoff, the crowd was silent in remembrance of recently deceased goalkeeper Robert Enke. From the opening whistle, the Germans were crisp with the ball, a throwback to the kind of quality seen between 2006 and 2008. Kiessling, Germany's best striker at the moment, was ever-present to spring the offside trap, and received excellent service from Podolski and Mesut Oezil. After nine minutes, in his first effective breach of the visitors' defence, Kiessling was kept onside by Guy Demel, who failed to compensate and conceded a penalty. Podolski stepped up to the spot and converted the resulting spot kick.

Two minutes later, Ivory Coast came close to equalising after a real howler from Philipp Lahm, whose back-pass to Wiese was far too weak. Emmanuel Eboue was first to the ball, but lifted his shot off target in what would prove to be one his team's few chances in the first half.

After 17 minutes, the German backline was careless again, but Wiese was able to spare his team's blushes with a close-range save from Sekou Cisse after some good build-up play from the Ivorian midfield.

After what seemed like quite a dangerous spell, the hosts regrouped and began to look like threats to score the next goal. A more withdrawn Podolski, Oezil, and Piotr Trochowski linked up very well with one another to set up a series of shots, but Aristide Zogbo did well to make repeated saves from each.

Although the score at half-time was only 1-0, Zogbo was actually beaten three times; one for the goal, another when Heiko Westermann's header was cleared off the line by Arthur Boka, and a third time late as Trochowski scuffed a low shot off the post.

As the second half began, just one change was made: Neuer, who suffered a minor hand injury during warmups, came on for Wiese. Four minutes after the start, Emmanuel Kone was subbed on for Didier Zokora, who apparently sustained an injury in the early minutes.

As in the first half, the Germans had good control of the ball, and their passing was crisp. Efforts from Podolski (51') and Kiessling (53') were  close, but missed the post and hit the goalkeeper, respectively.

On the other end, Boateng got away with a clear foul that could have been a penalty, as Ivory Coast began to show some signs of life. As events would unfold, Germany would be their own worst enemy. Just before the hour mark, Neuer cleared a back-pass straight into Eboue's head. The ball ricocheted bizarrely into the net, and Eboue claimed the most painful goal of his life.

After the equaliser, the flow of play remained much the same, but by this point, the visitors' defence was much more organized. Towards the final 20 minutes, both sides made tactical substitutions to bring in fresh legs. For Germany, Andreas Beck replaced Boateng, and Mario Gomez came on for Kiessling, who had faded out of the game. For the Ivory Coast, Gervinho replaced Sekou Cisse.

With the score level, Germany threw players forward in search of a winner, and were left terribly exposed at the back. The Ivory Coast responded with a series of counterattacks that exploited the gaps Germany left in front of the central defenders, and behind the full-backs. With under a quarter hour left, Kader Keita sprinted up the right flank and crossed for Salomon Kalou, whose shot was blocked just enough to steer it wide.

Shortly thereafter, Kalou sprinted into the box and appeared to be fouled by Per Mertesacker, but was awarded a yellow card for diving. In actual fact, the Werder defender started his challenge, then pulled out without making contact.

With ten minutes left, Aaron Hunt made his first-ever appearance for Germany, replacing the tiring Bastian Schweinsteiger. Hunt had an immediate impact as he found Mario Gomez in the penalty area, but the Bayern striker's shot was well blocked.

The visitors made another change seven minutes from time, as Seydou Doumbia came in for Kalou. Doumbia, too, had an immediate effect, but his was to score what would appear to be the winning goal. Seconds after his substitution, Doumbia raced across the top of the penalty area before drilling a 20-yard shot just inside the post and past Neuer.

In extra time, Germany threw all caution to the wind, and even Heiko Westermann came forward from his position in central defence. With half a minute left, the Schalke man slipped a through ball to Podolski, who was first to the ball and drove the ball in from a tough angle. The referee blew his whistle just after the restart, and a seemingly just 2-2 draw was the result.

Clark Whitney, Goal.com