Germany set up a Round of 16 clash with England after their narrow win over Ghana sent them to the top of Group D. Mesut Ozil’s fine strike was enough to seal victory, whilst the Ghanaians are also through on goal difference to face the United States.
After 9 minutes, Jonathan Mensah deflected a Lukas Podolski cross towards his own goal but Richard Kingson showed good reactions to push it round the post. Ozil had a glorious chance to break the deadlock after 25 minutes, finding himself in acres of space after Cacau played him through on goal but his finish was too close to Kingson. Ghana could have had a penalty moments later when Gyan got his head to Ayew’s corner and it was cleared by Lahm on the line, seemingly with the top of his arm. Kingson was called into action after half an hour, saving from Cacau before Kevin-Prince Boateng glanced a header across goal at the other end after Ayew beat Jerome Boateng on the right. Sami Khedira and Prince Tagoe both headed chances over and Kingson had to push away Schweinsteiger’s freekick as the first half ended goalless.
Five minutes after the break, Asamoah latched on to Gyan’s flick on but scuffed his shot when through on goal and Manuel Neuer saved. Germany went ahead on the hour through Ozil’s beautiful finish. Thomas Muller rolled the ball across the edge of the area and Ozil flicked it up before lashing the ball inside the post with his left foot. Ghana could have been level almost instantly but Jerome Boateng blocked Tagoe’s header at the back post from Ayew’s cross. Ayew could have equalised after 66 minutes after Gyan laid the ball off to him with a clever backheel but Lahm got across crucially to deflect his 12 yard effort over. Cacau had a speculative effort from distance that Kingson failed to hold but it rebounded to safety and Anthony Annan’s long range shot was claimed more comfortably by Neuer.
The potential penalty for Ghana that was not awarded bore a lot of similarity to the incident in the Australia vs. Ghana game that saw Harry Kewell sent off. Gyan’s header struck Lahm in a similar spot to where Jonathan Mensah’s shot hit Kewell, high up on the right arm and just inside the right-hand post. The appeals on this occasion were surprisingly lacking and from certain angles it looks like the ball may have come off his chest, but there was definite movement from his arm at the moment of contact. If the referee had deemed it a penalty, if indeed he even spotted it, he would have had to have dismissed the German captain. Lahm was later instrumental in keeping the German clean sheet, making a crucial block when Ayew had a clean sight of goal from 12 yards.
The anticipated clash between the Boateng half-brothers failed to live up to its billing, with Jerome stationed at left-back for Germany and Kevin-Prince operating mostly on the other side of the field for Ghana. It was instead an intriguing side note to a lively game played in a real end-to-end fashion. That there was only one goal in the match is hard to fathom, with chance after chance created and wasted by two very positive sides. Germany did miss the presence of Miroslav Klose up front, with Cacau failing to really influence the game in the lone striker role. It was the supporting cast from midfield that provided a real threat, with Khedira getting forward with regularity filling in the role vacated by the injured Michael Ballack. Podolski again offered a big threat from the left, his natural striking instincts making him very much an offensive midfielder. Jerome Boateng put in a steady shift behind him, giving Podolski license to get forward.
That Ghana ’s two goals so far in the competition have come from the penalty spot is perhaps telling, with the Black Stars creating much but lacking the end product. Those two coolly taken penalties by Gyan have put them through to the Round of 16 but they will need to take more advantage of the chances that they create if they are to progress further. There has been plenty of attacking intent by the Ghanaians across their matches, although they failed to take full advantage of the Australian’s going down to 10 men in their previous game. The defence looks fairly solid, with the experience of John Mensah helping the teenage Jonathan Mensah through the game against the Germans. Ghana will be hoping that the calf injury that has plagued the older Mensah for a long time and that kept him out of the Australia game does not resurface. Without him in the side, they may struggle, although the United States are hardly blessed with the kind of top class forwards that could really do Ghana damage.
The headlines will all be about the forthcoming clash between the old adversaries, England and Germany . England have been poor so far at the World Cup but were significantly improved in their win against Slovenia earlier. Germany will have Klose back for Sunday’s game and he could be key with England without both Rio Ferdinand and Ledley King at centre-back. How England cope with Ozil will be another critical factor, and the young German playmaker will look to occupy Gareth Barry as much as possible. Germany look like a different prospect to the sides that England have faced in the past, lacking a little of the ruthless streak that has been prevalent before but with more creativity and movement from midfield. A lot will depend on whether England can again up their game and a fascinating contest awaits.
Ghana – Kingson – Paintsil, Jonathan Mensah, John Mensah, Sarpei – Annan, Kevin-Prince Boateng – Dede Ayew (Adiyiah, 90+2), Prince Tagoe (Muntari, 64) – Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan
Germany – Neuer – Boateng (Jansen, 72), Friedrich, Mertesacker, Lahm – Khedira, Schweinsteiger (Kroos, 81), Muller (Trochowski, 68), Ozil, Podolski – Cacau