CARDIFF (AFP) - Germany coach Joachim Loew was in a relaxed mood Sunday after watching his side reinforce their bid to qualify for Euro 2008 with a comfortable 2-0 win over Wales.
On his debut as Germany captain, Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose scored after just five minutes of Saturday's qualifier at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium as the guests ripped open the host's defence.
Klose, who was winning his 70th cap, added a second by scoring his 35th goal for his country with a bullet-header on the hour mark as Germany outclassed a limited Welsh side.
The Germans have now won seven of their eight qualifying games and are five points clear at the top of Group D, with a win over rivals the Czech Republic on October 17 in Munich their main obstacle on the path to Euro 2008.
"The pressure we have been feeling is now gone and I feel we have everything in hand," said Loew.
"We took a big step towards qualification and I am delighted with the result. We began strongly and played some class football.
"There were a lot of positives from the game, but we still have a lot to work on. But this is a strong group of players who work hard."
With just seven points from seven games, Wales coach John Toshack had no complaints. The gulf in class between the sides on the pitch looked every one of the 69 places, according to FIFA's world rankings.
Loew admitted his side took their foot off the gas in the second half, with Klose squandering several chances to complete his hat-trick and the result could have been much higher.
Toshack, who lost captain and West Ham striker Craig Bellamy the night before the game after complications with his newly-born baby, said his side had been carved up by the German attack.
"I could see from the beginning we weren't as I wanted us to be and right the way through the game I could see the difficulties we were having," he said.
"We've not been cut open as easily as that before in the centre of midfield.
"Apart from quality players, the Germans are a very physical and strong team and their work ethic was superb.
"We can have no complaints with the result."
Germany now entertain Romania in a friendly in Cologne on Wednesday night, but if they beat their two main rivals, the Republic of Ireland in Dublin and the Czech Republic in Munich, next month they will be virtually guaranteed qualification.
"We are the group leaders and we have to keep playing like that," said two-goal hero Klose, the top scorer at last year's World Cup.
"We have some good players in the squad who are well established and we are on the right path."
Germany were missing midfielders Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings through injury, while Bernd Schneider was serving a one-match ban, but Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger produced a man-of-the-match performance in midfield.
"It was a good performance by us, but we squandered a few chances and we could have scored more goals," said Schweinsteiger.
CARDIFF (AFP) - Miroslav Klose celebrated his 70th cap and debut as captain with two clinical goals as Germany took a step closer to Euro 2008 qualification with a convincing 2-0 win over Wales on Saturday.
Klose needed just five minutes in Cardiff to celebrate his milestone when Germany's attack sliced through the Welsh defence and Kevin Kuranyi slid a pass to his skipper for the 28-year-old to put his side ahead.
And when Wales defender Gareth Bale was robbed by midfielder Roberto Hilbert just before the hour mark, his cross was met by Klose's bullet-header as the Bayern Munich striker scored his 35th international goal.
"We are leaders of the group and we have to keep producing performances worthy of that," said Klose.
"But we have a big group of talented players and the team is developing really well, we are on the right path."
German head coach Joachim Loew was delighted with the performance especially as he was without several first-choice players yet his side maintained their five-point lead at the top of their qualifying group.
"The make up of this group is outstanding," he said. "We are making life easier for ourselves in terms of qualification and the pressure on us is starting to fade.
"We have things in hand and we took a big step forward here.
"I am totally happy with the result, we began strongly, played some classy football and there were many plus points, although we still have things to work on."
With midfielders Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings missing through injury, as well as Bernd Schneider serving a one-match suspension, the role of chief playmaker went to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Bayern Munich product earned his man-of-the-match award and out-shone his captain with a superb performance to boss the middle ground as Germany underlined their status as run-away Group D leaders.
"We produced a good performance and controlled things well, in the first-half we could have scored a few more goals, but it was a solid performance," said Schweinsteiger.
According to FIFA rankings, the Germans are fifth in the world compared to Wales' 74th position and the gulf was as clear on the pitch as it is on paper.
An inexperienced Wales side had little to offer with Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Freddy Eastwood, who had been full of pre-match talk of embarrassing German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, was given precious little space by the tight German defence.
Wigan midfielder Jason Koumas and replacement striker Robert Earnshaw each had a chance either side of half-time, but Germany were always in control and Klose went close to completing his hat-trick om several occasions.
There was a small clash between rival supporters just after kick-off, but police moved quickly to nullify the threat.
Germany are still unbeaten in the group with seven wins out of eight and are five points clear of the second-placed Czech Republic, having scored 31 goals along the way.
BERLIN (AFP) - Germany defender Philipp Lahm has pulled out of the Euro 2008 group D qualifier against Wales in Cardiff after picking up an injury during a training session on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Bayern Munich player damaged ligaments in his left knee, meaning he has also been ruled out of the friendly against Romania in Cologne on September 12.
Following an examination on Friday Lahm said he would not return to action before the start of October, meaning he could miss Bayern's UEFA Cup first round, second leg date with Portuguese side Belenenses.
In Saturday's qualifier Lahm, a defender, had been set to be pushed up into Germany's midfield by coach Joachim Loew, due to the abence of injured Werder Bremen midfielder Torsten Frings.
Germany, on 19 points, are five points clear of the Czech Republic in their group. Wales sit in lowly fifth place on seven points.