An emotional Lukas Podolski struck in either half to give Germany an ideal start to their UEFA EURO 2008 Group B campaign with victory against debutants Poland in Klagenfurt.
The Polish-born FC Bayern München forward produced a vintage display as the three-time European champions recorded a solid win, putting Germany in front with a simple finish midway through the first half. Poland, in their first EURO finals match, pressed for a way back into the game but struggled to unpick Germany's defence and Podolski finally ended their hopes with an emphatic volley.
With national pride and neighbourly rivalry adding an extra frisson and both sides keen to make a positive start there was plenty at stake, and it was Poland who began the brighter as they went in search of a first victory against Germany. Leo Beenhakker's team came close in the opening minute when Jens Lehmann got tangled up with Per Mertesacker while trying to deal with a high cross and the ball fell invitingly to Jacek Krzynówek, but the VfL Wolfsburg midfielder blazed over.
Germany responded in kind to signal their own intent, and should have opened the scoring after Michael Ballack sprang the Poland offside trap to release Miroslav Klose into an ocean of space down the left. The Mannschaft's other Polish-born striker bore down on Artur Boruc's goal but elected to pass and Mario Gomez was unable to make a proper connection at full stretch with the goalkeeper stranded, the ball slipping narrowly the wrong side of the post.
Germany looked the stronger team as the first half unfolded and duly went ahead on 20 minutes after again catching their opponents flat-footed at the back. Gomez sent Klose clear on the right and this time the square pass was perfectly delivered, leaving Podolski to tuck the ball neatly past Boruc. Head bowed and unsmiling, the scorer denied himself a true celebration out of respect for his heritage. Maciej Żurawski might have levelled while Gomez could have increased the German advantage with a clever flick, yet half-time came with no change to the scoreline.
Ballack could have strengthened Germany's position two minutes into the second period but his attempt skewed awkwardly off his thigh. Poland were far from out of it, however, maintaining a healthy share of possession without making significant inroads, while their supporters behind the goal provided plenty of encouragement. Those fans were further heartened as substitute Roger Guerreiro made some surging runs down the left, then Euzebiusz Smolarek had an effort ruled out for offside.
The alert Boruc tipped over Ballack's well-struck attempt but was powerless to prevent Podoski sealing the points in the 72nd minute – few goalkeepers would have kept it out. A swift passing move was cut off by Paweł Golański yet substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger dispossessed the defender and, although Klose missed his kick, Podolski showed how it should be done with a sweet left-foot volley.
This time he allowed himself a satisfied smile and he was fully entitled to it having given Germany their first finals win since the Czech Republic were defeated in the EURO '96 showpiece. Poland's long wait to overcome Germany continues but they next face co-hosts Austria on Thursday, when Joachim Löm's side play today's other winners Croatia.