Any worries Germany might have had about the loss of influential captain Michael Ballack were quickly put to rest in their 4-0 opening win against outgunned Australia in Durban.

Richard Garcia provided an early scare for the three-time world champions in the nervy awkwardness of the opening exchanges, but it proved a false dawn as Germany were a goal to the good inside eight minutes of the teams' Group D curtain-raiser. Miroslav Klose fired a warning shot after four minutes which was well dealt with by Mark Schwarzer, but Australia’s Fulham-based net-minder could do nothing about what came just four minutes later. A diagonal ball from Mesut Oezil sent Thomas Mueller breaking down the right side of the penalty area and the Bayern Munich starlet crossed low for Lukas Podolsk to drill home with his left foot past Schwarzer, who did well just to get a hand to it.

The Australians were stunned by the early set-back and the heavy underdogs, labelled as such by captain Lucas Neill in the build-up, had no luck grinding their way back into the contest. After 20 minutes, Garcia was again vaguely threatening, but his tame strike from the edge of the box failed to do justice to some clever approach work. The Germans were in the ascendancy and threatening from both flanks. In the 24th minute, Klose – usually so reliable on the world stage – fluffed an absolute sitter, blazing over a brilliant cross from out left by scorer Podolski, who was looking a new man after a disappointing season with Cologne.

It did not take long for Klose to make amends. With 26 minutes played, he rose high to head home an inch-perfect cross from captain Philipp Lahm, whose recent claim that this Germany side is the best he has played in suddenly began to gain weight. Oezil had another golden chance on the half-hour mark, but his delicate chip over Schwarzer was booted clear by Neill, who was leading a rearguard in serious danger of total collapse by the time the half-time whistle, mercifully for Australia, brought an end to the opening stanza.

The second half began with Neill unceremoniously planting a knee into the back of danger man Klose. That bit of impetuousness combined with a red card for Tim Cahill in the 56th minute for a reckless challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger was the full measure of Aussie resistance. With a man advantage, the German juggernaut went into overdrive. Oezil and Podolski both went close to scoring from close range before the outstanding Mueller made it 3-0 with a sharp strike in off the post after a wily give-and-go with Podolski had cut a swathe through Australia's defence in the 66th minute. Two minutes later Cacau added a fourth and final goal with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a substitute for Klose, slotting home the simplest of finishes from six yards out.

The Germans' victory moved them level on three points with Ghana, winners against Serbia earlier in the day. Joachim Low's men next face the Serbs on 18 June in Nelson Mandela Bay while Australia will look to rebound against a powerful Black Stars side one day later in Rustenburg.