DURBAN, June 14 (DPA) - Three-time world champions Germany warned doubters they are real title contenders Sunday with a 4-0 victory over 10-man Australia for the perfect start to their 2010 World Cup campaign.
"Germany is definitely a candidate for the title," Australia's Dutch-born coach Pim Verbeek said in the post-game press conference.
Man of the Match Lukas Podolski struck in the eighth minute and Miroslav Klose snapped out of his slump with Germany's second goal in the 26th minute.
Australian Tim Cahill was sent off in the 56th minute, as Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez mistook his fall for a reckless tackle. This effectively ended any chance of an Australian comeback.
Thomas Mueller made it 3-0 in the 68th minute and Cacau put the icing on the cake for the Germans by adding a fourth in the 70th minute.
The victory - Germany's sixth straight to start a World Cup - pushed Joachim Loew's men atop Group D on goal difference ahead of Ghana, which defeated Serbia 1-0 earlier in the day.
"We had some luck at the beginning, and you can tell that we are a young team. But we found our game and showed that we have good quality," German captain Philipp Lahm said.
"The victory was good and we did a lot of things well. But it's just one game and we still have to work to do," said German boss Loew.
"When we go down 2-0 and then lose a man of course it's going to be tough to come back," said Australian captain Lucas Neill.
"We still have two games left. So we have to forget about this game and look forward."
In front of 62,660 spectators at Durban Stadium, German hearts were racing after just three minutes on a corner kick, which Cahill headed towards Manuel Neuer's goal. The attempt went off Australia's Lucas Neill and Richard Garcia's rebound shot was stopped on the goal line by Philipp Lahm.
The favourites had their first chance four minutes later on a counter-attack, but Klose's shot was too centrally located to beat Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer.
Germany, however, grabbed the lead in the eighth minute after some fine passing. Mueller ran down Mesut Oezil's pass into the right side of the area and crossed back to the left side where Podolski was waiting to unleash a left foot blast from 12 yards which Schwarzer could not deflect away.
Loew's men were close to doubling in the 24th minute with Podolski streaking down the left side and crossing to Klose, who shot wide right from seven yards.
The much-criticised Klose, however, made good from the air in the 26th, heading home from eight yards Lahm's cross from the right wing.
It was the 11th World Cup goal for Klose, who had struggled all season at his club Bayern Munich as well as in the preparations and had not scored for Germany since October 2009. Only Brazil's Ronaldo (15 goals), German Gerd Mueller (14), Just Fontaine of France (13) and Pele (12) have scored more goals.
"I am really happy that Klose scored. It was an important goal. He is a striker and he needs to score, and it's good that he scored in the first game," Lahm said.
The Group D favourites repeatedly found room on the right side but both Oezil, in the 31st minute, and Sami Khedira, in the 39th, were unable to finish the deal before the first half whistle.
The German defence came out lacklustre in the second half and allowed the Socceroos to have more of the run of play, with a Brett Holman finish just wide in the 51st minute.
Australia went a man down in the 56th minute when Cahill was given his marching orders.
Schweinsteiger himself told the referee on the pitch that "it was not a red card".
Verbeek, however, was realistic, in noting that the sending-off did not affect the result "that much".
Thereafter, Germany's offense continued to create chances, but both Klose and Khedira were unable to score at the hour-mark, and Klose again six minutes later.
The youngster Mueller matched the veteran Klose's goal in the 68th after a fine rush forward by Podolski, who passed over to Mueller. The 20-year-old Bayern talent then beat Schwarzer off the left post.
Cacau joined the scoring party in the 70th minute with Holger Badstuber sending down the left wing Oezil, who found the Brazilian-born striker in the middle for the easiest of goals.