Russia 0-1 Germany: Germany Qualify
Guus Hiddink sent out his team in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Andrei Arshavin linking up play between the flanks behind striker Alexander Kerzhakov. Yuri Zhirkov, whose fitness was previously in question, made the starting lineup at left back.
Germany coach Joachim Loew lined up his squad in a very mobile 4-4-1-1 formation, with Mesut Oezil supporting striker Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski featuring on the left side of midfield. Jerome Boateng made his international debut at right back, allowing Philipp Lahm to play on the left.
The sound of the capacity crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium was deafening, and made for an awe-inspiring setting. Germany reacted well and appeared not to be intimidated in the early play. During the opening quarter hour, both sides played with care, although the bounce of the ball seemed to favor the Russians, who managed a few half-chances early on.
As the first half wore on, Russia appeared to slowly gather momentum. Their passes into the penalty area began to reach their targets with more frequency. Their ball control was a bit sharper than the Germans’. Zhirkov flashed a free kick over the bar before Andrei Arshavin set up Vladimir Bystrov for a chance should have given the home side the lead. Through on goal, Bystrov was unable to shoot past Rene Adler, who came quickly off his line to block the shot.
Minutes later, Russia would be left to rue their missed chances. In the 35th, Podolski slipped a clever through ball to Oezil. The Werder Bremen starlet drew Igor Akinfeev off his line, and back-passed to Miroslav Klose, who tapped in ahead of Vasili Berezutsky.
After Klose’s goal, the hosts searched for a new outlet for attack, and found it on their left. Oezil, Podolski and Lahm had effectively canceled out Aleksandr Anyukov’s attacking influence on the right, and Arshavin had been well contained by Simon Rolfes. On the right flank, however, Bystrov was able to use his pace to beat Boateng. By the time this advantage was realized, however, the first half was nearly over. A missed chance on 38 minutes and a free kick on the edge of the box were all the Zenit winger could earn before the break.
Hiddink brought on Dmitri Torbinsky for Igor Denisov, who had been largely anonymous in the first half. With Torbinsky came wave after wave of Russian pressure. Kerzhakov was played through in the 53rd minute, but Per Mertesacker did well to cut him off. The Russian striker passed back for Arshavin, but the Arsenal forward’s powerful drive was well blocked by Adler.
Two minutes later, the Russians were at it again. Arshavin was again brilliantly denied by Adler before Bystrov struck an ambitious bicycle kick over the bar.
For the Germans, there was little possession, and even less offense. The visitors’ only glimpse of hope was Oezil’s speculative long-ranged effort, which grazed the top of the crossbar.
Things got worse for Germany in the 69th, when Boateng was dismissed for a second booking, a professional foul on Bystrov. Loew responded by bringing in Arne Friedrich in place of Oezil, and changing to a 4-4-1 setup.
In the final 20 minutes, Arshavin finally began to find space away from Rolfes, and was a constant thorn in Germany’s side, leading an ever-running contingent of Russian attackers. Adler was next called into action in the 73rd minute, as he produced another excellent save from Igor Semshov.
Late dramatics ensued as Russia tried to appeal for penalties on two occasions. First, Arshavin cut in front of Ballack and was felled as he entered the box, but play was allowed to continue. Next, Bystrov played the ball towards the byline and was tackled by Arne Friedrich, but again a penalty was denied.
Thanks to some ill-timed Russian tackles, Germany were able to drag their feet in extra time and finished the last three minutes of injury time comfortably. The result confirms that Germany win Group Four, and that Russia will have to go through a play-off round in order to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.