CARDIFF (AFP) - Germany captain Michael Ballack took his side a step closer the 2010 World Cup finals with a brilliant long-range opening goal in a 2-0 qualifying win over Wales here on Wednesday.
Chelsea midfielder Ballack's strike from 30 yards gave Germany an early lead before an Ashley Williams own-goal secured victory for the Group Four leaders.
But Wales, reeling from last weekend's 2-0 loss to Finland which all but killed off their hopes of playing in next year's South Africa showpiece, restored some pride and might have had a penalty when Serdar Tasci handled when slipping in front of Joe Ledley.
Robert Earnshaw led Wales's attack in the absence of injured captain Craig Bellamy, who'd blasted his side after the Finland defeat.
Encouragingly for Wales, Arsenal teenage midfielder Aaron Ramsey did not look out of his depth against Germany but he was powerless to prevent Ballack letting fly with a dipping shot which gave keeper Wayne Hennessey no chance.
Wales though refused to be cowed and they were unlucky not to have a spot-kick in the 26th minute after Gareth Bale and Ledley combined down the left wing.
Tasci stumbled as he backed off the advancing Ledley inside the box and the defender's hand made contact with the ball. It seemed a penalty but referee Terje Haunge dismissed Wales's appeals.
Hennessey had to save well from both Thomas Hitzlsperger and Lukas Podolski to prevent Germany doubling their lead and it wasn't until after half-time they added a second goal.
Mario Gomez managed to send in a speculative cross and Williams, sticking out a leg, diverted the ball into his own net.
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