A 38th-minute Milan Jovanovic goal proved enough for Serbia to edge a Germany side that played the entire second half at a numerical disadvantage and missed a penalty. Joachim Low's charges had the majority of the possession and chances at Port Elizabeth Stadium, but Miroslav Klose's dismissal and Lukas Podolski's failure to beat Vladimir Stojkovic from 12 yards proved costly for a Germany team beaten in a FIFA World Cup™ group game for the first time since 1986.
The result means that Germany, who remain top of Group D on goal difference, Ghana and Serbia all now have three points, while Australia are yet to get off the mark. The Black Stars and the Socceroos will play their second game in Rustenburg tomorrow.
Germany quickly found their rhythm following kick-off, but it was Serbia who had the first meaningful attempt on goal, Zdravko Kuzmanovic executing a firm, low drive from the edge of the box that went two yards wide. The Germans responded instantly, stringing a series of passes together before Mesut Oezil dinked the ball through to Sami Khedira, who was promisingly positioned inside the area but unable to keep his volley down. Podolski was next to try his luck, reacting first to Nemanja Vidic's clearance and sending a thumping volley narrowly wide.
Serbia then enjoyed a fruitful five-minute spell. Krasic neatly set up Milos Ninkovic, who volleyed over from inside the area. Then Ninkovic skipped around Arne Friedrich and was felled as he approached the Germany penalty area but Radomir Antic’s side wasted the consequent free-kick. The Serbia defence was standing firm against the three-time world champions – Neven Subotic made one crucial challenge on Khedira, while a Vidic interception denied Klose a run on goal.
Klose did have the ball in the net on the half-hour but had strayed marginally offside. The Germany forward's afternoon reached an early end eight minutes before half-time, however, when following an earlier booking, he received a second yellow card for bringing down Dejan Stankovic from behind, and was sent off. Serbia capitalised immediately. Krasic outstripped his marker down the right, got to the byline, and crossed to the back post, where Zigic was hovering. The towering striker nodded the ball back across goal and into the path of Jovanovic, who took it on his chest and fired acrobatically past Manuel Neuer from five yards.
Germany, a man and a goal down, came agonisingly close to restoring parity on the stroke of half-time. From an Oezil corner, Stojkovic could only punch the ball into the path of Khedira, who thumped it against the crossbar from 12 yards. From the rebound, Thomas Mueller produced an overhead kick but Kolarov was intelligently positioned on the line and managed to hook the ball to safety.
Germany raced out of the blocks following the restart. Bastian Schweinsteiger almost went through on goal, but Vidic made a sliding challenge to avert the danger. Oezil then slid Podolski in only for the Cologne ace to find the side-netting from eight yards. Poldi had a far better opportunity to equalise on the hour mark. Vidic unnecessarily handled Arne Friedrich's cross and referee Alberto Undiano pointed to the spot, handing the Manchester United centre-back a yellow card. Podolski aimed for the bottom corner but Stojkovic flung himself down to his left and pulled off a great save.
The game flowed from end to end in the remaining 30 minutes. The inventive Krasic worked an opening for himself and forced Neuer into a good save, while the same player also crossed for Zigic, whose header struck the crossbar. Germany's best opportunities continued to fall to Podolski. Oezil and Mueller combined to free him down the left of the penalty area but he scuffed his shot. He tried again with four minutes remaining but failed to get a good connection on his ten-yard effort. It was not his – or Germany's – afternoon. Serbia, who pipped France to first place in their qualifying group, had once again served notice of their ability to hang with the heavyweights.