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Friday 19 September 2014

Klose the saviour as Germany and Ghana share the spoils in thrilling encounter

Published 21/06/2014 | 22:12

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Germany's Miroslav Klose (front) taps the ball in to score against Ghana during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza June 21, 2014
Germany's Miroslav Klose (front) taps the ball in to score against Ghana during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza June 21, 2014
Germany's Mario Goetze gets a cross in ahead of Ghana's Kwadwo Asamoah during the World Cup Group G game in Fortaleza. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Germany's Mario Goetze gets a cross in ahead of Ghana's Kwadwo Asamoah during the World Cup Group G game in Fortaleza. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Ghana's Sulley Muntari (2nd R) reacts after being shown the yellow card by referee Sandro Ricci of Brazil during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match against Germany at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza
Ghana's Sulley Muntari (2nd R) reacts after being shown the yellow card by referee Sandro Ricci of Brazil during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match against Germany at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza

This was a crazy game, a rollercoaster of emotion, and it's fitting that Miroslav Klose's record equalling 15th World Cup goal will ensure it goes down in the annals.

Ghana 2 Germany 2

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The veteran striker, who turned 36 at the beginning of the month, moved level with Ronaldo in the all-time charts by answering an SOS call to rescue a point for Germany against an ebullient Ghanaian group which came out of their shells as the game progressed to fly the flag for Africa with distinction.

All four goals came in the space of 20 second-half minutes, and there could have been many more in a hectic 45 packed full of thrills and spills.

Germany still escape in a relatively strong position, and their players looked happy with the final outcome, an emotion perhaps borne from relief. Nevertheless, in the cold light of day Joachim Löw will have to examine why his side were given so much difficulty in the heat of Fortaleza.

A blemish-free opening win over Portugal suggested they were in rude health, but this fixture demonstrated vulnerabilities which fuel the belief that this competition is wide open. Löw had to call on some old pals to drag his original tactical set-up out of trouble.

It must be acknowledged that Ghana, the unlucky quarter finalists in 2010, are a formidable opponent.

They did not deserve to lose their opening game with USA, but the price of a late concession was knowing they were effectively on the brink of elimination with defeat here.

Therefore, they had to be initially conservative in aspects of their approach, especially against a German side with the pace to exploit sides on the counter attack.

Ghana's central midfielders Sulley Muntari and Mohammed Rabiu sat relatively deep in front of a back four that invited Joachim Loew's attackers to break them down.

With Thomas Müller in the centre of a three-man front line with Mario Götze and Mezut Özil interchanging around him, Germany chipped away before the break without really having much joy, and the midfield three of Philippe Lahm, Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos laboured. That said, there was some seat of the pants defending from the African centre halves John Boye and Jonathan Mensah, with an acrobatic overhead kick from the latter a shining example.

Still, if the method wasn't always conventional, it was effective and, to their credit, they restricted the Germans to shots from outside the box, or managed to throw a body in the way once they progressed any further. Müller and Khedira came closest, without really coming that close.

Indeed, Ghana were equally menacing in their less frequent forays. Chelsea's Christian Atsu, on-loan at Vitesse Arnhem last term, was a consistent outlet in behind left full Benedict Hoewedes and he called Manuel Neuer into action in the early exchanges and also teed up Asamoah Gyan for a skied attempt.

Atsu's movement then fashioned a chance for Sulley Muntari to unleash a 30-yarder that the German netminder stretched to push to safety with the Brazilians in Fortaleza, who were supporting the underdogs, off their feet.

But this was only the calm before the storm and it was the 12,000 Germans in the stadium that were celebrating after the restart when Müller wandered into the space on the right wing and delivered a cross that was converted clumsily by the head and knee of the inrushing Götze.

Ghana had been waiting to take off Kevin-Prince Boateng before that goal was scored, and they immediately made a switch which meant he joined his brother Jerome on the sidelines for the duration after they'd sparred before the break – Joachim Löw had opted to replace the Bayern Munich man with the more offensively minded Shkodran Mustafi. That call backfired as the right full was caught under the flight of a fine Harrison Afful cross and Andre Ayew rose to expertly nod home.

Suddenly, this game was really alive and, just after the hour mark, a rattled Germany fell behind. Muntari sensed weakness in the heart of Löw's midfield, seized on a Lahm error and threaded a superb ball for Gyan who kept his composure after a powerful run to skilfully convert.

The German bench had to react and immediately sent for the tried and trusted with Bastian Schweinsteiger in for Khedira and Klose replacing Götze and taking a central brief. Their impact was almost instantaneous as Schweinsteiger's determination won a corner that was headed goalwards by Hoewedes and clipped across the line by the predatory Klose.

Ghana had cause for regret, especially as sub Jordan Ayew had selfishly refused to play through Gyan after a superb solo run left the crowd in raptures, but they subsequently rode their luck with a remarkable diving Kwadwo Asamoah interception halted a Müller march before Klose wasted a chance to make history.

Ghana had their moments too in a breathless finish which swung from end to end, but couldn't produce a winner. It sets up a tense conclusion in a group which is delivering on pre-tournament expectations. Portugal can now put themselves right back in the mix if they can defeat the Americans tomorrow in Manaus.

Germany: Neuer, Boateng [Mustafi 45], Mertesacker, Hummels, Hoewedes; Lahm, Kroos, Khedira [Schweinsteiger 69]; Özil, Müller, Götze [Klose 69].

Ghana: Dauda, Afful, Boye, Mensah, Asamoah; Rabiu [Badu 78], Muntari; Atsu [Wakaso 71], K Boateng [J Ayew 50] A Ayew; Gyan.

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