This World Cup so far has proven itself to be about as predictable as an Irish Summer. Hopeful as many were that the evening kick off between Ghana and Germany would be a contest, none could really have said they expected what they got following Germany’s utter destruction of Portugal and Ghana’s lethargic performance against the USA.
German head coach Jaochim Loew decided to stick with the same team that had blown away the Portuguese in Salvador. Mats Hummels recovering from an injury that saw him leave the field early in the first group game. Ghana made a rack of changes, including the introduction of Kevin Prince Boateng to the starting xi to face up against his brother Jerome Boateng playing for the German side. Both born in Berlin to a German mother and Ghanaian father it was the second time in as many World Cups that the brothers had faced off against each other.
It was Kevin Prince who looked dangerous in the first half for Ghana, getting a number of shots away that Neuer dealt with rather comfortably. Ghana head coach, James Appiah, had evidently studied the Germany-Portugal game quite intently and had therefore noticed that the Germans had exploited the high line played by Pereira and Coentrão.
Kroos pinged balls time and again behind the advancing wing backs, giving Müller, Schurrle and Götze plenty of space into which they could attack. Ghana had evidently decided to sit deeper and invite Germany onto them, something that seemed to bear fruit for the West Africans and it was them, impossible as it may have seemed a week ago, who were catching Germany on the counter attack.
Germany just couldn’t find the same penetration they had against Portugal, albeit Ghana were playing with the full complement, so that may have played its part. The first half ended at 0-0, a tense affair and it was Ghana, arguably who had had the better of the chances. What followed next was the best 45 minutes of football at the World Cup so far.
Just six minutes after the restart Germany had taken the lead through Mario Götze. The Bayern Munich player with probably the luckiest goal of his career, as a cross ricocheted off his forehead onto his knee and past the outstretched Dauda in the Ghanaian goal.
Götze, despite starting brightly in the first 15 minutes against Portugal has been rather inconsequential so far in the tournament, which has really been the story of his season with FC Bayern. Despite the goal, he was subbed off with 20 minutes remaining in the game for Miroslav Klose.
The next forty minutes of football belonged to the African side. Much as in the first half Germany failed time and again to penetrate a stoic Ghanaian defence, which was much improved on the performance against the United States. The solid defensive effort, alongside the Ghanaian’s pace allowed them to exploit the space left behind Germany’s high attacking line.
A sloppy clearance from Mats Hummels led to a Ghanaian cross and a superb header past Manuel Neuer by 24-year-old Olympique Marseille player André Ayew. 1-1 and you would be hard pressed to find a soul saying that the Black Stars didn’t deserve it.
Germany, who are often seen as a team that remain calm and composed, simply panicked. Kroos, who had barely seen the ball due to a Shinji Kagawa style man marking system from the Ghanaians, pushed higher and higher up the field and Germany were caught on the break once more.
A sweeping move, more characteristic of the Germans than Ghanaians was finished off by the Ghanaian hero of four years ago Asamoah Gyan. Ghana deservedly led 2-1. Prior to the tournament, many, including this journalist had the opinion that Germany lacked out and out strikers, which of course on paper they did. The 4-0 against Portugal might have muted some of that criticism, but one could not help but get the feeling that goals were not going to come from Müller, Kroos or Özil.
So, on came the 14-time World Cup goal scorer, Miroslav Klose; not a bad player to have coming off the bench when you desperately need a goal. Sure enough, two minutes later Klose latched onto the end of a Benedikt Höwedes flick on from a Schweinsteiger corner and the game was level.
Ironically enough the goal was almost a carbon copy of a the 1999 Champions League winning goal from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer against of all teams, FC Bayern. A striker’s goal if ever there was one. Klose is now the joint top scorer of all time at the World Cup, alongside Ronaldo with 15 goals, an amazing achievement.
The next twenty minutes were just as frantic as the twenty that preceded it with big chances for both Müller, stopped by an incredible tackle from Sulley Muntari, and Klose who scuffed a shot wide in the dying moments.
This game provided many a talking point after in Germany. Many thought Germany had been lacklustre and had gone into the game thinking they would sweep aside Ghana, the youngest team in the tournament. The reality was, from this journalist’s perspective, that Germany were figured out by Ghana who played exactly as they should have and it did to some degree, pay dividend.
This can be a lesson for Joachim Loew’s side and could perhaps lead to a change in lineup, namely Klose coming in for Götze and Müller dropping deeper.
Ghana must beat Portugal on Thursday 26th in order to progress and hope that the US loses by more than one goal to Germany at the same time. Either way, the Black Stars, as the youngest team at this World Cup have shown that they certainly have a bright future ahead of them.
Dáire O’Driscoll, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Dario Sarmadi (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dario_471/165970082/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.