FIFA World Cup runners-up Germany needed a second-half goal from striker Miroslav Klose to edge a narrow 2-1 victory over the Faroe Islands in a surprisingly close EURO 2004™ Group 5 qualifier.
The Germans, playing on home soil, started ideally when playmaker Michael Ballack put them ahead from the penalty spot on two minutes after striker Carsten Jancker had been brought down in the box - but the hosts wasted a succession of chances and were jeered by a Hannover crowd expecting a goal feast.
Friedrich own goal
The visitors were poor in a one-sided first half but German defender Arne Friedrich surprisingly put them level by heading the ball into his own net from a cross by midfield player Jakob Borg on the cusp of half-time.
Klose, who shot to prominence with his goals in the World Cup in Korea/Japan, saved Germany from an embarrassing draw by heading the winner from substitute Paul Freier's cross on 59 minutes. His strike gave the hosts the second victory of their campaign after a 2-0 win in their opening qualifier against Lithuania five weeks ago.
The three-times world and European champions, who survived a scare when Faroes substitute Hjalgrim Elttoer hit the post from a swift counterattack seven minutes from time, are top of their group. But the traditional heavyweights did little to please coach Rudi Völler five days after a dismal 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina in a friendly international in Sarajevo.
The only satisfaction for the manager once again came from Ballack. The FC Bayern München player, back after missing the Bosnia game after a bout of flu, created a series of opportunities the strikers squandered. The midfield player also came close to scoring a second when he hit the far post with a superb angled shot from 15 metres in the 53rd minute.
Völler believed his side had only done enough to earn a point. "I am not satisfied with the performance of my team," he said. "Klose and Jancker should have scored in the first half. Normally such a game should end in a draw but what is most important is the three points. That we came second in the World Cup really plays no role any more."