mueller-thomas_584

German striker Thomas Mueller, right, celebrates with striker Lukas Podolski, left, and striker Miroslav Klose after scoring his team's third goal against Australia. ((Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images) )

For one night, the Beautiful Game belonged to Germany.

Known more as a methodical team than a creative one, the Germans scored several lovely goals Sunday night in a 4-0 rout of Australia in Durban, South Africa.

Germany scored twice in each half and Tim Cahill was sent off as the three-time champion surged to the top of Group D at the World Cup.

Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose scored in the first 30 minutes as Australia coach Pim Verbeek's defensive tactics backfired, and Thomas Mueller and Cacau added the others against an overwhelmed Australian defence.

"We earned respect for ourselves," Klose said. "It was hugely important to win the first game, but nothing is won yet. We're a young team and we have fun playing."

Cahill was red-carded in the 56th minute for a late challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The dominant win, played in front of 62,660 fans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, came without injured captain Michael Ballack.

"I think the way we set up our attacks is something we've been working on intensively," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "But we've also worked on how we play off the ball — to move into unused space. We were very good on the ball tonight, and we created beautiful goals."

Schwarzer beaten on roofer

Podolski shot into the roof of the net in the eighth minute when Mesut Oezil passed to Mueller on the right and the young Bayern Munich midfielder cut the ball back. Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer could only deflect the ball on its way in.

Klose doubled the lead when he got in front of Lucas Neill to head a cross from Philipp Lahm past Schwarzer.

The strike drew him level with Juergen Klinsmann as Germany's second most prolific World Cup marksman. Gerd Mueller tops the list with 14 goals.

"It was not an easy game for us," Verbeek said. "We tried to make it very difficult for them and use our speed, but we didn't have the ball in the first 20 minutes."

Any hope Australia had of coming back evaporated with Cahill's sending off. Klose missed two more good chances before Mueller made it 3-0 in the 68th, dragging the ball back to avoid a lunge from Scott Chipperfield and sending a low shot in off the post.

Cacau rounded off the scoring in the 70th, tapping in from close range just two minutes after coming on as a substitute for Klose.

Hoping to hold out for a draw, Verbeek used Cahill as a forward and packed his midfield, leaving experienced striker Harry Kewell on the bench. But with Cahill isolated up front instead of controlling the midfield, Australia had no answer to Germany's swift passing and running game.

Verbeek said he had planned to bring on Kewell in the second half, but decided against it after Cahill's red card.

"From the moment we had 10 players, we had to make different decisions," he said. "So I'll try to save him for maybe the next game."

Aussies minus Cahill

Australia now has a mountain to climb if it is to progress to the next round, especially as it will be without Cahill in its next match, against Ghana on June 19.

The Everton midfielder was in tears after the match as Schweinsteiger patted him on the back and said he did not believe he should have been sent off.

Australia only briefly threatened at the start of each half. Cahill had a header blocked in the fourth minute and Richard Garcia's follow-up shot also was stopped on the German line.

Immediately after the break, Garcia had a good appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Marco Rodriguez when his header hit Per Mertesacker's arm.

But apart from those fleeting chances, Germany was in total control.

"The Australians defended with 10 players," Loew said. "So you just can't take those teams head on. You have to hit them on the wings and we did this very effectively."

Germany has not lost an opening match in the World Cup since a 2-1 defeat in 1982 against Algeria and the team never looked like losing on a warm evening in Durban.

Earlier Sunday, Asamoah Gyan scored an 84th-minute penalty to give Ghana a 1-0 win over Serbia in the opening Group D match.