Ghana lost to Germany in their last group match, but thanks to an Australian win against Serbia in the other Group D match, they make it through to the last 16 stage of the tournament. It ended Germany 1, Ghana 0.
It was an entertaining match, especially the first 60 minutes, as both teams played to win. Much like the Algeria vs USA game, the win was always going to fall to the team that managed to get that delicate balance between attack and defence right.
The game wasn’t without its scares, the first one coming in the 9th minute when John Mensah intercepted a cross from Podolski and almost scored an own goal. The Ghanaian defenders were a little hesitant in their defence, allowing the Germans to come right at them with the ball. They relied on trying to intercept the passes and to disrupt the interplay between Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Khedira and Mueller, which worked to only to an extent. If the Germans fell back with the ball and then attacked quickly, the Black Stars were in trouble. This defensive weakness is what allowed Mesut Ozil both the time and the space in the 59th minute to get a great dipping shot that beat Richard Kingson from just outside the penalty area. The good thing about this strategy is that we didn’t see as much dirty play as we saw in other matches.
The Ghanaians for their part were excellent at launching running attacks at the Germans, and since they were more than happy to let them keep the ball, hoping that the defenders would dispossess them when they attacked, their runs into the German half were counter-attacks. The speed and power of Asamoah Gyan, Andrew Ayew and Kevin-Prince Boateng were almost too much for the German fullbacks to handle. Almost.
As has generally been the case for African countries at this World Cup, the Black Stars let themselves down with their own poor finishing. Gyan especially had wonderful chances to finish, but simply could not find that final touch – even when his header was cleared, rather contentiously, off line by Phillip Lahm. The German defender used his arm in a similar manner that got Harry Kewel sent off against Ghana, but the referee decided not to give a card or a penalty on this occasion.
The suspension of Miroslav Klose in the last game seems to have knocked the teeth out of Germany’s attack. Cacau, his replacement, simply isn’t as clinical a striker. Mesut Ozil, despite his excellent goal, was also not the same rampaging player we saw against Australia. They go on to face England in the last 16, and will need to rediscover the form that allowed them to run circles around Australia in their opening match.
Ghana go on to face the US in their last 16 clash, and really, either one of those teams can go through to the quarter finals.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Ghana: Richard Kingson, John Pantsil, Jonathan Mensah, John Mensah, Hans Sarpei, Anthony Annan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Dede Ayew, Prince Tagoe; Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan.
Germany: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, Cacau.
Referee: Carlos Simon (Brazil)
Before the match
Cacau starts as a lone striker in place of Miroslav Klose, who was sent off against Serbia. Jerome Boateng starts at left back in place of Holger Badstuber. In a World Cup first, half-brothers Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng line up against each other.
Ghana make just one change. John Mensah comes back into the squad in place of Lee Addy.
- 3rd minute: First shot at goal for Cacau, who drives it low and hard at Kingson. It was a poor angle, a good shot but an even better save.
- 5th minute: Another hard and low shot at Kingson, this one coming from Thomas Mueller.
- 6th minute: Kevin Prince Boateng puts a great pass through to Gyan, cutting through two German defenders. Gyan’s touch is too heavy and Neuer pounces.
- 7th minute: Lukas Podoloski gets a shot off, better angle this time, but knocks it against a Ghanaian player for a corner.
- 9th minute: Jonathan Mensah almost scores an own goal! He tries to cut a Podolski cross down, and instead shoots it at his own goal. Only Kingson’s wits save Ghana.
- 13th minute: Ghana have a glorious chance inside the German penalty. Gyan was completely unmarked, with all the room in the world, and took so long getting the shot off, the Germans had time to recover and get in the way.
- 15th minute: Podolski tries to volley a cross from Cacau but misses it completely.
- 16th minute: Ghana looking dangerous again, with the Germans defending a cross in the area.
Commenting on the vuvuzelas is getting old, but the beehive effect inside Soccer City is quite deafening.
- 20th minute: A corner to Germany. It comes to nothing.
- 22nd minute: Kingson pounces on the ball right outside his area. Good thing too, Ozil was running onto it.
- 24th minute: Good chance to Ayew, but he has a touch too many and is dispossessed.
- 24th minute: Ozil faces Kingson in a one-on-one, but can’t beat the keeper.
- 25th minute: That was close! Gyan’s header is cleared off the line by Lahm.
Dramatic match, this. We just need the goals now.
- 28th minute: Ayew crosses it right the ball right into Neuer’s arms.
- 30th minute: A weak effort by Cacau is saved by Kingson. Caught rather than saved: it was going out.
- 32nd minute: Kevin Prince-Boateng has a chance for a header, but just can’t find the goal.
- 36th minute: A corner to Germany. Khedira’s header carries over the Ghanaian goals.
- 40th minute: A yellow card to Ayew. He protests vociferously. I am sympathetic – he managed to get a foot on the ball, even though he committed a foul as well.
- 41st minute: Schweinsteiger’s free kick is well taken, dipping dangerously to the far post. Kingson saves it, but only just.
- 43rd minute: A yellow card to Thomas Mueller for a lunge on John Mensah.
- 45th minute: Tagoe’s header goes over the poles.
- 45th minute: Podolski gets the second half off with an attempt on goal. It goes high. Way high.
- 49th minute: Pantsil rather overcomplicates a clearance and Germany have a corner.
- 50th minute: Asamoah has a great one-on-one opportunity, but Neuer bats the shot away.
If Ghana do lose this one, they’ll look back to these chances and curse their lack of finishing.
- 56th minute: John Mensah heads the ball out for a corner.
- 58th minute: Germany probe the Ghanaian defence and are able to get into their penalty area, but not much further.
- 59th minute: The pressure finally pays off. Mesut Ozil strikes a sweet shot that dips and completely beats Kingson.
Photo: Germany’s Mesut Ozil (C) celebrates his goal surrounded by team mates during the 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Ghana at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
- 60th minute: Ghana almost come right back into it with a Tagoe header that goes just wide.
- 63rd minute: Sulley Muntari comes on for Prince Tagoe.
- 66th minute: Phillip Lahm saves his country by getting in the way of Ayew, whose belter was headed goalward.
- 67th minute: Piotr Trochowski comes on for Thomas Mueller.
- 68th minute: Cacau sees his shot blocked by a Ghanaian defender.
- 69th minute: Cacau gets another shot at goal, this one from distance. Kingson blocks it off and the clearing duty falls to a Ghanaian defender.
- 71st minute: another substitution for Germany. Jerome Boateng comes off for Marcell Jansen.
- 77th minute: Gyan breaks away from the German defenders to find a high pass, but Neuer gets to the ball first.
Ghana are trying and trying and trying. And trying.
- 80th minute: Toni Kroos comes on for Bastian Schweinsteiger.
- 80th minute: Asamoah Gyan goes off for Matthew Amoah.
Ozil is not as rampant as he was against Australia, but he is the difference between the two sides right now.
- 85th minute: Jansen has a shot that doesn’t trouble the keeper.
- 87th minute: Chance for Muntari. It’s no good, with the ball going high and wide.
- 91st minute: Ayew comes off for Dominic Adiyiah.
Speaking of Ozil, he’s hobbling about right now.
End of the match.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Photo: Ghana’s Dede Ayew (L) and John Pantsil run with the Ghana flag after the 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match between Ghana and Germany at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko