HAMBURG, Germany (AFP) - South Africa-bound Germany needed a 90th-minute goal from Lukas Podolski to spare their blushes and salvage a 1-1 draw as Finland came close to a shock win in their final World Cup qualifier.
Germany had booked their berth at South Africa 2010 with a 1-0 victory over Russia on Saturday, but Joachim Loew's side suffered a Moscow hangover and struggled badly against a determined Finland.
Finland's only win over Germany was 86 years ago in Dresden and Stuart Baxter's side came agonisingly close to pulling off another rare win on German soil.
"In the first-half we didn't play well, everyone saw that," admitted Loew.
"After the break, we raised our game, but Finland defended well and we weren't as fresh as we were in Moscow.
"Having said that, it is always difficult after such a game to raise the standard.
"We have to work much harder at breaking down defences. I know we have a good team, when they are focused."
Having drawn with Germany 3-3 in their previous meeting, Baxter was understandably disappointed at the result.
"We have played Germany twice and I am disappointed at the two draws," said Baxter.
"In both games we conceeded an equaliser very late and that is a real pity.
"In the first-half the team played almost perfectly and I am very proud of my players."
Loew had opted to rest Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker from the side which started in Moscow, but he still had captain Michael Ballack and Philipp Lahm here.
"We have struggled recently against defensively-orientated sides - and this was another example of that," said Lahm.
"We did not get the ball into the last third of the pitch enough and there is plenty to work on."
Finland, who were only playing for pride with World Cup qualification beyond them, opened the scoring when Jonatan Johannsson struck in the 11th minute to leave the hosts red faced.
Hoffenheim's Andreas Beck failed to stop Roni Porokara putting in a cross from the flanks, then Roman Eremenko beat Lahm to the header before Johannsson was the quickest to the ball and drilled his shot home from close range.
Johannsson had also scored in the 3-3 draw against Germany in Helsinki last September when Germany dropped their only other points of the campaign.
It looked for most of the game like the hosts would finish with their first defeat in qualification games until Podolski was presented with a simple goal.
But this was not the homecoming the German fans expected and their whistles of discontent rang continuely around the HSH Nordbank Arena as Finland dominated the home side for long periods of play.
Finland had other chances in the first-half as both Eremenko's shot was saved by Rene Adler and veteran Jani Litmanen's goal was ruled off-side.
Loew made a series of changes afer the break by introducing exciting Werder Bremen midfielder Mesut Oezil and Bayern Munich veteran Klose.
The pair combined with Oezil looping a cross over the Finland goal which Klose, the top-scorer at the last World Cup, scrambled back across the face of goal for Podolski to fire home with full-time almost up.
It was a far from impressive performance and Loew will demand an improved performance from der Mannschaft before next month's friendlies against Chile in Cologne on November 14 and Egypt in Gelsenkirchen on November 18.
|Coach: J. Löw|
for M. Ballack 46'
for T. Hitzlsperger 46'
for M. Gómez 77'
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