SHANGHAI - A tired and weakened Germany got their Asian Tour got off to a lacklustre start when they were held to a 1-1 draw by a young China team in an international friendly on Friday. Showing the clear effects of a gruelling season, Germany needed an equaliser from Lukas Podolski to cancel out Hao Junmin's opener and avoid an embarrassing defeat to the Chinese, who are 95 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
China played the brighter football throughout and would have handed Gao Hongbo a winning start to his reign as coach if they had shown a little more composure in front of goal.
"People may be unhappy with such a result, but my players have done their best," Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters.
"They just finished the league season and need some time to get themselves together. I didn't expect China to play this well."
The hosts took the lead after five minutes when midfielder Hao skipped past Middlesbrough's Robert Huth and lashed the ball over Hanover goalkeeper Robert Enke from a tight angle.
"Scoring a goal was not as important as giving our fans confidence," Hao told CCTV. "Our rivals were strong ... so we played the match with no other thoughts but learning."
Podolski had the visitors back on level terms two minutes later, however, when Bastian Schweinsteiger's through ball caught the Chinese defence flat and left the striker with the simple task of beating the goalkeeper for his 33rd international goal.
Gao had given new caps to two players and left the experienced Zheng Zhi and Zhou Haibin on the bench. When they were brought on in the second half, China had even more possession but still rarely troubled Enke.
Gao Lin and Zheng were among those who spurned chances to finish off China's neat approach play, while Schweinsteiger should have done better than blast the ball wide when he beat the offside trap with seven minutes remaining.
"Germany is one of the best teams in the world," said Cheng Liang, one of China's debutants. "Maybe because of the long trip, they did not played their best football. This match was a big test for both our coach and players. I think we did quite well."
Saturday's German and English FA Cup finals robbed Loew of several regulars -- including captain Michael Ballack -- allowing Stuttgart's Brazilian-born striker Cacau and Wolfsburg's Christian Gentner to make their debuts.
After their first match in China, Germany now move on to Dubai to play the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.