Created on 03-09-2010 at 00:00 AM
Germany have made a winning start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign at Belgium's expense. The men coached by Joachim Löw won their opening group match on Friday evening in Brussels after Miroslav Klose netted the only goal of the game. The Bayern centre-forward's 51st-minute strike, his 53rd goal in national colours, proved enough to separate the sides after a lively encounter in front of a 42,000 crowd at King Baudouin stadium.
"It was tough going in the first half and the Belgians made a few chances. We were much smarter after half-time," Klose said afterwards. "The first game is always difficult, so it was good to take three points away from home," commented Philipp Lahm, who captained his country for the tenth time: "We can be satisfied today."
Five Bayern men at the start
Less than two months after the World Cup, Löw started with eleven of the men who went to South Africa, including five Bayern stars. Apart from Lahm and Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber and Thomas Müller also made the starting line-up. Toni Kroos replaced Lukas Podolski after 70 minutes, with Mario Gomez following the exciting 90-minute contest from the bench.
Klose's 102nd senior international appearance also saw him take on the starring role. After Schweinsteiger had recovered possession from his club team-mate Daniel van Buyten deep in the final third of the field, Müller supplied the perfect lay-off for his Munich strike partner. Klose kept his cool with just Belgium keeper Logan Bailly to beat and slotted home the winning goal. "It was a great finish from Miro, and a very important goal," remarked Müller, who almost added a second from Lahm's pass 20 minutes from time.
Next up: Azerbaijan
"We're really pleased about winning here. It was very hard work. The Belgians have a good team," said Schweinsteiger: "The task now is to follow this up against Azerbaijan." The nation supervised by former Germany boss Berti Vogts meet the group favourites in Cologne on Tuesday.
On the same evening, Van Buyten and his Belgium team-mates travel to Istanbul for the meeting with Turkey and Hamit Altintop. "I think a draw would have been a good result for us," said the Bayern defender, still fuming about the narrow defeat: "We had our chances, as did Germany. We're a bit angry about losing."