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Match-winner Miro

Klose fires Germany to South Africa

A Miroslav Klose strike has sealed Germany’s place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Bayern hitman scored the only goal in Saturday’s meeting between the Germans and Russia in Moscow, ensuring Joachim Löw’s side will top qualifying Group 4 regardless of the outcome when they face Finland in their final fixture this Wednesday.

“We were class today, because we took the chance which decided it. We can be highly satisfied,” Klose commented after the final whistle. Philipp Lahm was equally delighted: “I think we played better in the reverse fixture, but every one of us stuck to the tactical plan today. We deserved to win.”

Acclimatising to the surface

A 75,000 full house at the Lushniki stadium in the Russian capital saw the visitors, who started with a Bayern trio of Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lahm, turn in an impressive first-half display characterised by disciplined team play. The players settled quickly to the artificial turf, offered their skilful opponents little space in which to work, and ruthlessly took their chance when it came, Klose netting from six yards after a superb exchange of passes between Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski on 35 minutes.

The Germans then defended in depth and rode their luck against the Russian onslaught in the second half. The visitors were reduced to ten man for the final twenty minutes after Jerome Boateng’s senior international debut ended with a dismissal for a second bookable offence.

Invincible Adler

However, when the home side did get a sight of goal, they found keeper René Adler in outstanding form. After preventing his side falling behind in the first half with a courageous save in a one-on-one situation, the Leverkusen shot-stopper made two stunning late blocks to preserve a clean sheet.

The Germans, with Mario Gomez on for Klose a minute from time, only broke sporadically in the second half but could easily have wrapped it up earlier, either when Özil’s shot hit the bar on the hour, or captain Michael Ballack’s header shaved the post.

Russia ran out of steam towards the end, although they were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in a frantic final flurry, and the Germans held on for the win. With one fixture remaining, Löw’s side now have 25 points to Russia’s 21. Guus Hiddinck’s team are at least guaranteed a place in the play-offs between the eight best runners-up, with four further berths at the World Cup up for grabs.