Germany defeated Ghana one-nil to qualify as group winners, and, at the same time, set-up an intriguing clash with old rivals England on Sunday.
Mesut Ozil’s wonderful half-volley on the hour mark was – in what was an exciting match -enough to separate the teams. Ghana qualified as well, due to the result between Australia and Serbia. But Germany were impressive throughout, and it will take a big effort from Fabio Capello’s men if they are to progress further than the first knock-out round.
In the opening stages, Cacau, who replaced the suspended Miroslav Klose, looked bright and was buzzing around the Ghanaian defence.
The Germans, also, were keeping possession well, but it was Ghana who almost created the first real opportunity of the match after six minutes. Asamoah Gyan was almost played in, but the pass was just too heavy as the striker was waiting to pounce.
But Germany continued to inset their authority, and Jonathan Mensah almost turned the ball into his own net after a dangerous cross into the box by Lukas Podolski. Fortunately, for him, Richard Kingson was alert and he turned the ball behind for a corner.
However, after 14 minutes, Andre Ayew set-up Gyan, who only had to swing his boot at the ball, but he took far too long and the German defence managed to recover and block the shot.
The Germans did not really threaten again until after 20 minutes on the clock. Cacau played in Philipp Lahm who went on a mazy run, but, instead of looking for a team mate, he selfishly went alone and had to settle for a corner.
Despite holding most of the ball in the midfield, Germany were finding it difficult to penetrate the Ghanaian defence. Ghana, on the other hand, got their tactics spot on early on and were always a threat when going forward.
This was epitomised when Ayew found the ball after it was bobbling about. However, instead of shooting, he took one too many touches and eventually the ball was cleared.
Germany then created their best chance of the match after 25 minutes. Ozil ran free from the defence, but his effort was poor and was hit straight at Kingson.
Immediately after, Ghana, with a corner, almost scored. Gyan’s header went goalwards, away from the goalkeeper, but Lahm was Germany’s hero as he cleared it off from the far right hand side post. There are, however, doubts over which part of the body Lahm cleared the ball with. Some replays suggest he may have used an arm.
The game was becoming frantic, and Joachim Loew’s side – needing to win – were struggling to deal with Ghana’s attacking prose. It was end-to-end stuff, though, and there probably should have been at least one goal by now.
Cacau was next up to test the one of the goalkeepers after 30 minutes, but his volley, while making good connection, was comfortably dealt with by the confident-looking Kingson.
With five minutes to play in the first half, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s dangerous free-kick was just too high for Per Mertesaker, but it still troubled Kingson who had to turn the ball away. Ozil was then unable to make the most of the rebound.
After the break, Kingson found himself in a bit of trouble from a dangerous corner. The goalkeeper came but was no-where near the ball. The Germans, however, were unable to do anything with it.
But Ghana should have taken the lead after 50 minutes through Kwadwo Asamoah. Gyan’s header gave the striker a one-on-one opportunity with the German goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, but Asamoah’s scuffed shot was disappointing and was blocked well by the goalkeeper.
And they were made to pay for the missed chances on the hour mark. After some intense pressure and good passing, Thomas Muller played a square ball across the box to Ozil. The Werder Bremen star let fly with his right foot, and the ball thundered into the top right hand corner of the net.
It was a fantastic goal from a player who has really impressed at this World Cup. It also calmed the nerves of the three-times champions.
Ghana – still in a qualifying place at this stage – by virtue of goals scored over Serbia, started to push more men forward, but this just allowed more space for Podolski, Cacau and Ozil to exploit.
But they almost equalised through Ayew, who suddenly found himself free with the ball in the box. But, again, Lahm came to the rescue for his team, as he deflected the shot over the bar.
Cacau could have made the game practically safe after some nice work again from Ozil. The Brazilian-born forward couldn’t make proper contact and, in truth, it was a wasted opportunity from the Stuttgart man.
Ghana – at this stage – were looking fatigued, and the Germans were far stronger and the more likely to score the next goal.
In the last ten minutes, though, the West Africans appeared to have found their second wind. They bombarded the German box with balls in, but couldn’t find the opportunity to test Neuer.
The game started to slow down; both realising the result was good enough to put them through. Germany’s possession was excellent throughout the match, and they used this strength to close the match out and secure their place as group winners. They will now face England in a mouth-watering clash. Ghana, meanwhile, will play USA in the next round.
Ghana: Kingson, Sarpei, Pantsil, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Annan, Ayew (Adiya, 90+2), Boateng, Gyan (Amoah, 81), Tagoe (Muntari, 64), Asamoah.
Germany: Neuer, Friedrich, Lahm, Mertesaker, Boateng (Jansen, 72), Khedira, Schweinsteiger (Kroos, 81), Ozil, Podolski, Muller (Trochowski, 68), Cacau.