JOHANNESBURG: Ghana already has one milestone behind it and now it stands a victory away from achieving maybe an even bigger one—sending Germany to its earliest exit from a World Cup.
Ghana became the first African team to win a World Cup game on African soil when it beat Serbia 1-0 in its Group D opener. Now it can ensure that Germany exits at the group stage for the first time ever.
Going into the decisive final round, Ghana leads the group on four points, Germany and Serbia have three and Australia is on one, meaning all four have a chance of progressing and all are at risk of missing out.
A win over Ghana would see Germany through, and a draw would be enough for the Germans if Serbia fails to beat Australia.
Both sides will be eager to improve on their previous performances: Germany suffered a surprise 1-0 loss to Serbia, while Ghana failed to capitalize on an early red card to the Australians and was held to a 1-1 draw.
The Germans remained optimistic despite an unconvincing display against Serbia. Coach Joachim Loew and captain Philipp Lahm have both said Germany will advance “100 percent.”
“We know our qualities and have no doubt that we’ll make it,” striker Cacau said Monday.
The Brazil-born Cacau is likely to start up front, as Miroslav Klose is suspended after being sent off with two yellow cards against Serbia.
“I can see that my teammates have the confidence that we’ll win,” Cacau said.
Central defender Arne Friedrich also exuded confidence.
“We all believe we will make it, from coach Loew down. The loss to Serbia was a blow but we still believe we’ll go through,” Friedrich said.
“We are in the kind of situation when we have to prove ourselves and if we get rid of mistakes we made against Serbia, we’ll be fine.
“They have good forwards but if we put pressure on them we’ll cause them to make mistakes.”
Germany has been in similar situations before—two years ago it needed to beat host Austria in the final group match to advance at the European Championship and it did, then went all the way to the final.
But the winning goal against Austria came from captain Michael Ballack, who was forced out of this World Cup by an ankle injury, contributing to Germany having the second youngest team in World Cup history.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, the man whose tackle in the English F.A. Cup final took Ballack out of the World Cup, will be on the opposite side Wednesday.
Boateng was born in Berlin and played for Germany’s junior teams before switching allegiance to the land of his father. His half brother Jerome is a Germany defender.
According to Jerome, the two have not had contact since the start of the World Cup, after Kevin-Prince had complained that the hostile reaction in Germany to his foul on Ballack had racist elements.
“It was stupid that something like that became public … but I wish him the best and I will shake his hand before the match,” said Jerome, who is unlikely to start.
Ghana has a Serbian coach, Milan Rajevac, who will have central defender and captain John Mensah back after a hamstring injury ruled him out of the match against Australia. Mensah’s usual central defensive partner, Isaac Vorsah, remains in doubt.
Like Germany, Ghana is at the World Cup without its injured regular captain, Michael Essien—Ballack’s Chelsea teammate.
“I don’t think there is pressure on us,” Mensah said. “They will probably have more pressure because they are the favorites.
“We all know Germany has a good team, but we believe we have a good team as well. We have to keep things tight, stay compact and I’m sure we can win the match.”
Defender Hans Adu Sarpei, who has played his entire career in Germany and is now at Bayer Leverkusen, believes Ghana can exploit weaknesses in Germany’s defense, although Ghana has yet to score from open play in two games, with both its goals coming from penalties.
“This is a big game. This situation of win or die makes it much bigger. Myself, Kevin-Prince Boateng and the rest of the team must be calm and go into the game with our minds and not emotions so we don’t get red cards,” Sarpei said.
BDST: 1215hrs, June 22, 2010