After producing the most goals in the World Cup’s opening round of games, Germany had its progress checked in a 1-0 upset to Serbia yesterday.
The three-time champion started in South Africa with a 4-0 rout of Australia in the soccer tournament’s most lopsided result so far. A red card to striker Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski’s missed penalty against Serbia in Port Elizabeth sent Germany to its first loss in a World Cup group match since 1986.
“After the first games, for me, of all teams Germany showed the best football, the best quality,” Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic told reporters. “Now we are strong. We were a little bit lucky but I think we deserved to win.”
Serbia rebounded from a 1-0 defeat to Ghana in the opening Group D match six days ago to boost its chances of reaching the round of 16.
Germany remains atop the group because of a superior goal difference. Serbia and Ghana, which faces Australia today, are tied for second with three points with the top two teams advancing to the second round. The final Group D games are scheduled June 23.
“There was much disappointment after the first game,” Serbia defender Nemanja Vidic told reporters. “We let ourselves down and obviously in this game we had so much pressure. We’ve had a great result and now everything is in our hands.”
Milan Jovanovic got the decisive goal in the 38th minute, moments after Klose was ejected after tripping Serbia captain Dejan Stankovic, the German’s second yellow card and one of nine in the match.
Players from both teams said Spanish referee Alberto Undiano may have been too quick to hand out bookings.
“If you look at all of the yellow cards, it’s a joke,” said Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Jovanovic put the ball into the net from about eight yards after Nikola Zigic had headed Milos Krasic’s cross into his path. Jovanovic then jumped over advertising hoardings to celebrate with Serbian fans at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic kept his team ahead in the 60th minute, diving to his left to save Podolski’s penalty after a handball against Vidic.
It was the first World Cup penalty Germany had missed in regulation play since 1974, when Uli Hoeness failed to convert a spot-kick against Poland.
“I accept responsibility,” Podolski told reporters. “I don’t want to dwell on it.”
Germany coach Joachim Loew, who has assembled his country’s youngest World Cup squad since 1934, said the squad was “devastated” by the defeat, though had the “resolve and the will” to go through to the next round. Germany closes group play against Ghana in Johannesburg in four days.
“I don’t think this is going to bog us down completely,” Loew said at a news conference.