Sunday will be no day of rest in South Africa as the World
ALGERIA vs. SLOVENIA
12.30pm – Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane
Algeria and Slovenia have been through the mire to make it to South Africa and both will be keen to make an impression in their opening match in a group that neither are fancied.
Algeria’s heated play-off with Egypt earned their place at the finals, while Slovenia had to overcome Russia in their own playoff encounter, and if nothing else the profile of the teams they denied a place in this summer’s tournament goes to prove their pedigree.
The African side’s build up has mainly surrounded the form of their skipper Yazid Mansouri, who looks set to miss out on a starting place at the expense of Hasan Yebda. Nadir Belhadj, the scorer of the winner in that playoff against Egypt will also miss out as he’s serving a ban.
Slovenia’s hopes rest upon the shoulders of both Robert Koren and Millivoje Novakovic, both of whom carry with them the hopes of a nation, but the duo will have to perform to the highest level to guide Slovenia to the knock-out phase.
SERBIA vs. GHANA
3pm – Loftus versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Serbia will play their first World Cup match as an independent country against Ghana and go into the tournament as many people’s bet as favourites to join Germany in the knock-out stage.
Their mean defence, made up of Nemanja Vidic and Bratislav Ivanovic, makes them hard to beat, while the large frame of Nicola Zigic has posed problems for a number of sides at the other end of the pitch.
Their opponents Ghana made a name for themselves at the last World Cup in Germany, by knocking out Czech Republic in the group phase and qualifying for the last-16. But hopes of a repeat performance have been talked down after the loss of Michael Essien to injury, and the onus on Kwadwo Asamoah might be too big a burden for the 24-year old to bare.
One thing that is for sure is that the meeting between these two is a contrast in styles. The big bruising Serbians against the fast paced athletic Ghanaians. Expect one of the games of the tournament to unfold in Pretoria.
GERMANY vs. AUSTRALIA
7.30pm – Durban Stadiumd, Durban
One of more anticipated matches of the tournament pits World Cup veterans Germany against Australia, a team bulging with talent from the Premiership.
The spine of the team is an impressive one. Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neil, Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell are part of a formidable Socceroos line-up. However, even with the presence of the Galatasaray forward Kewell, there is a distinct lack of striking options, and the Green and Gold will have to rely on his fitness as much as his goal-scoring ability in South Africa.
Germany, as ever, can’t be written off. Even with the loss of Michael Ballack, another star to miss out on the festival of football in Africa, they’re a team to be feared, with plenty of the squad that reached the European Championship final in 2008, retained. Mario Gomez, who was largely anonymous in Austraia and Switzerland, will be the main goal getter for the three-time winners and with the likes of Miroslav Klose in reserve, success in the final third won’t be an issue for Joachim Low’s side.
However, the boss might have reason to worry about his last line of defence, his goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, whose erratic performances between the sticks may give German fans reason to worry, with the legacy left by Oliver Khan far from dependable.