Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Germany Regroups, Advances to Knockout Stage

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Germany’s loss to Serbia in the second game of group play looks like it was only a minor bump in the road.

Without suspended star forward Miroslav Klose the Germans had control of their own destiny and seized the day, beating Group D leader Ghana 1-0 en route to winning Group D and advancing to the Round of 16.

Newcomer Mesut Ozil, the 21-year-old in only his 13th appearance for the National Team, scored the lone goal in the 60th minute.

After struggling against Serbia, Die Mannschaf regrouped and took care of business.

Ghana was the more aggressive and pressing team. They outshot Germany 17-13 but the Germans were more efficient, putting more shots on goal (6-5) and were the only team to put the ball in the back of the net.

Without much veteran leadership thanks to a slew of injuries before the tournament, it was unsure how the young players would respond to the pressure of needing a win to advance and keep up the proud soccer tradition in Germany.

At the end of the day the inexperienced would rise to the challenge.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, in only his eighth appearance for Germany, made three saves and recorded his second clean sheet of the tournament. Ghana was the more dangerous team in the game and threatened to score more often, but Neuer stood strong and helped deny the Black Stars.

Neuer also had a lot of help from defender Philipp Lahm. Although not a newcomer to the National Team, Lahm was a newcomer to the role of captain, thrust into the responsibility due to a last-minute injury to Michael Ballack before the start of the Cup.

Lahm was all over the defensive part of the field thrusting himself to stop lethal goal scoring opportunities for the Black Stars. At times where the German defense was bending, Lahm kept the group organized enough in order not to break.

The hero, however, was Ozil.

Ozil was impressive in his World Cup debut against Australia but was rendered ineffective by a tough Serbian defense. However he was once again an active force. The Germans attacked up the wings, leaving plenty of space for Ozil to run through, and then channeled the ball to him, including leading up to Ozil’s goal.

The Germans will catch no break though as they will face off against England, who survived to finish second in Group C, in the Round of 16. It will be a battle of two world soccer powers. Still, Germany should be battled-tested coming out on top of a difficult group.

The victory over Ghana wasn’t as impressive as the one over Australia, but it was more important and showed that the Germans were closer to the team the world saw in game one rather than the one that lost to Serbia.

With the return of Miroslav Klose against England things are looking up for the Germans.

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