Thursday, June 24, 2010

Group D Decided! Die Mannschaft and The Black Stars Advance

Group D teams went into the final stage of the group phase with all teams with a chance of qualification into the Round of 16. Ghana were the group leaders ahead by a point, Serbia and Germany were tied at three points and Australia had one point. All teams were out for a win and if results went their way, any of the four teams in Group D could find themselves in the last 16. This meant a fantastic round of football was in store and it turned out to be two excellent matches as Ghana, Serbia, Germany and Australia fought tooth and nail to try and feature in the knock out phase.

In Soccer City, Jo'Burg, Ghana faced up to the young and energetic Germany. The Black Stars were not overawed by the challenge that Die Mannschaft pose in terms of attacking threat. Jonathan and John Mensah dealt capably with whatever Podolski, Cacau and Oezil threw at them. Ghana took the game to the Germans but were let down by poor finishing. I questioned Phillip Lahm's ability to lead this young German side but I was very impressed by Lahm in this match as he saved Germany time and time again. Sami Khedira is proving to be Michael Ballack's successor in the German senior side. The former U-21 captain showed that he is a world class act. who could do a bit of everything and do it well. Once the ever-dangerous Mesut Oezil had put Germany in front, Jogi Loew's team reverted to classic German rearguard action and closed out the game.

In the three games played, Germany have shown us the good, the bad and the ugly. The good - the pace and attacking threat that Germany possess as seen in the 4-0 win over Australia. The bad - the defensive lapse against Serbia will be something that England must capitalise on. The ugly - like England, Germans threw their bodies on the line to defend the lead and had 7-8 players behind the ball.

Ghana have been brilliant without Micheal Essien and now they carry the entire hope of Africa on their shoulders. The lack of a classy striker may hurt their progress but the Black Stars are Africa's second best team (as proven from the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations) and will want to redeem some African pride.

In Nelspruit, Serbia White Eagles must have been hoping for an easy win over the Socceroos. For the first time, they ditched their safety first and went on the offensive right from the start. Milos Krasic's strong running causing Australia early problems. Serbia needed only a draw to qualify but were hit by a sucker punch when Tim "Headers" Cahill destroyed Serbian hopes with a trademark goal. Australia took over and finally got the win to round up their World Cup on a high. The Socceroos must definitely rue their performance against Germany. Who would have believed that a third successive handball actually did occur in Serbia's third consecutive match?! This time because it was Cahill, the referee did not see it. Or maybe it's because Serbian players can't disguise blatant handballs as well as other players.

Group D gave us two football treats. It was true end-to-end stuff. After all that, Ghana and Germany progress into the Round of 16. Their reward for a job well done are trips to Rustenburg and Bloemfontein to face  the USA and England respectively. It's the old rivalry then for Germany and England. The battle hardened Premiership boys against the youthful Bundesliga pups. This matchup should be the best of the last 16 matches.

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