- Ghana lost 1-0 to Germany
in an end-to-end Group D thriller at Soccer City on Wednesday
but kept Africa's tattered flag flying at the World Cup as both
teams advanced into the second round.
In a match when there were no real
losers, Germany emerged
with the points and Ghana received the thanks of a grateful
continent despite being unable to find an answer to Mesut Ozil's
20-metre scorcher on the hour that divided the teams at the end.
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For three-times World Cup winners
Germany this was just
another World Cup win as they maintained their record of always
advancing from the group stages of the tournament.
For Ghana it will go into the
record books as a loss but
will also be remembered as the night they reached the last 16 of
Africa's first World Cup to keep the flag flying.
They are likely to be the only
African team in the second
round after the elimination of hosts South Africa, Nigeria,
Algeria, Cameroon and almost certainly the Ivory Coast.
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"I hope the majority of South
Africans will continue to
support us... I hope we will benefit from massive support here
in South Africa," said Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac.
They have secured a winnable
second-round match against
Group C winners United States in Rustenburg on Saturday.
Germany, who finished top with six
points, will face old
rivals England in Bloemfontein on Sunday while Australia, who
won 2-1 in Nelspruit, were eliminated with opponents Serbia.
At its core this match brought
together the dynamism and
excitement of African football and the pragmatic efficiency of the
Germans, who just had a little too much defensive guile and
experience to see off their enthusiastic opponents.
However, they rarely had it all
their own way and only won
because of Ghana's woeful inability to finish off some excellent
approach work with a goal -- and some excellent defending.
"Ghana is a strong team, they are
very skilful and they
created many dangerous opportunities," said Germany coach
Joachim Low. "... we have many young players but were able to
take the pressure and score in a very decisive moment."
Despite the rearguard action of
the Germans, though, Ghana
should have done better in front of goal.
The most blatant example of their
profligacy came after 52
minutes when Kwadwo Asamoah, with only Manuel Neuer to beat,
fired straight at the Germany goalkeeper's legs and wasted the
chance to put his team ahead.
Dede Ayew also had three good scoring chances and, although
Philipp Lahm saved one of those efforts with a brave block on
the line, Ayew seemed fazed every time he was had a chance.
Ghana have gone 13 matches
without scoring more than one
goal - and their two strikes here have come from penalties.
Germany also struggled to break
down a solid Ghana defence
in which Jonathan Mensah and his unrelated namesake John Mensah
were outstanding, before Ozil struck the winner.
The match will also enter World
Cup folklore as being the
first in which two brothers - Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng and
Germany's Jerome Boateng - were on opposing sides.
Both played well with Ghana's
Boateng driving his side
forward at every opportunity with incisive through balls from
midfield and Germany's Boateng a physical presence on the left.
The entertainment began with the
first chance from Germany's
Brazilian-born forward Cacau after only three minutes, testing
goalkeeper Richard Kingson with a low drive.
Cacau then set up Ozil with a
perfect through ball in the
box but the playmaker, with only Kingson to beat, could only
manage a weak shot.
defence gradually shut down the supply lines to
Cacau and Lukas Podolski, forcing the Germans to try their luck
with long-range efforts.
Both teams poured forward searching for a goal and even
after Ozil finally broke the deadlock, Ghana continued to
attack, changing the nature of the game entirely with Germany
forced to reply on the counter.
With news filtering through from
Nelspruit that Australia
were leading Serbia, the pressure dropped a little towards the
end but no-one begrudged the players that as they had all
achieved what they set out to do by reaching the last 16.
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