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World Cup 2010: The Final Examination

The Germans’ victory in the opening match produced a lot of confidence, but this strong performance wasn’t able to be confirmed during the second group match. The Balkan team proved to be a difficult opponent as expected; the German national team suffered a painful defeat, and if they let the last match of the preliminary round pass, the trip home could quickly become a bitter reality. It’s quite interesting how the progress until now is similar to both of the German team’s last big tournaments. During the 2008 European Championship, the team started off impressively against Poland (just like during this World Cup against Australia), but then they buckled in the second game against Croatia (Serbia). However, in the third, decisive pre-round game against Austria (Ghana), they turned things around in their favor. But there’s still one important difference: back then, when the match against the Alpine republic didn’t run well, coach Jogi Löw could rely on his captain, who managed to break Austria’s resistance with a spectacular free kick. Michael Ballack isn’t present in the German national team for the decisive game against Ghana, which will make the match an important test of the young team’s character; from today’s perspective, one rehearsal during a preliminary match such as the one against Austria is now followed by a final examination for the Germans as they take to the field against Ghana.

Ghana vs Germany

During the kick-off game against Australia, numerous commentators mentioned that Löw had already developed his key formation at the start of the World Cup. The game against Serbia taught them otherwise. But this is also a bit of common knowledge in football: the team that starts off on the field during a tournament is never the same that finishes it. Not only do unwanted events such as injuries and barring of players change the formation, variations in form also have an influence on the positioning: some players are put back on the bench after poor performance, while others seem to prosper during the tournament and are suddenly a part of the basic formation. At this point, Löw needs to prove himself as the clever tactician that most fans consider him to be. He needs to get the problems on his defensive outer track under control, i.e. where Philipp Lahm is placed either right or left. But who this may actually be is still a mystery: Holger Badstuber is too inexperienced, Marcel Jansen was injured for a long period and his performance is difficult to estimate as a result, and Jerome Boateng is very powerful, but too inexperienced internationally, plus he’s more comfortable defending the inside. And the national team’s coach also needs to consider who is going to start off as striker in place of the barred Miroslav Klose. Mario Gomez seems completely insecure in the national team at the moment and even Cacau was unable to confirm strong impressions made during the kick-off match when he played against Serbia.

Although the situation with the Germans is difficult after the game against Serbia, it can hardly be compared with Ghana’s own position: as Africa’s only remaining team, it has a realistic chance at moving forward. Even though they played slightly disappointingly in the other games, their fans remain hopeful. The performance of the team up until now may have been shocking, but expectations are high before the upcoming important game. On a special note, the appearance of Ghanaian midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who was born in Berlin, will be followed with special attention: a kick he delivered during the English Cup finals injured German captain Ballack, taking him out of the running for participation in this year’s World Cup…

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