Ozil strikes to set up England showdown
Published 24/06/2010 | 05:00
THEY cleared one off the line and saw their goal come under threat more often than they would have cared for.
Yet, following the time-honoured rules of global football, Germany, proudly and almost inevitably, kept their nerve here at Soccer City to eke out the win which ensures a thunderous affair with England in the last 16.
With their thousands of fans clearly enjoying the idea of a meeting with the old foe just as much as we will, it took a quite fabulous goal from Mesut Ozil in the second half to ensure they took control of group D and booked a tie in Bloemfontein on Sunday which is never going to be knowingly undersold.
Yet, in defeat, it was party time for Ghana too, as they became the first African team to make it through to the knockout stages of the continent's first World Cup. As soon as news of Serbia's loss to Australia came through, both sets of fans could celebrate with gusto together.
And after a remarkably open game with chances coming in profusion at both ends, England could afford to look at this German side and believe that, though full of verve and inspired by a brilliant captain Phillip Lahm, they are eminently beatable.
A thrilling evening enjoyed an historic beginning when Germany announced that Jerome Boateng would start at full back. It meant that, for the first time in the history of the World Cup, two brothers were pitted on opposite sides in a game at the finals, with Portsmouth's Kevin-Prince turning out in Ghana's midfield.
Two silent brothers, too, as they still happen to be feuding over Kevin-Prince's tackle in the FA Cup final which did for Michael Ballack's World Cup. The two Berlin-born half-brothers, who have the same dad and different mothers, did shake each other's hands after the anthems but didn't appear to pass a word.
For starters, though, it was Kevin-Prince, who gave up the chance to play for Germany and decided to throw in his lot with the land of his Ghanaian father, making the biggest impression, a lovely through ball offering Asamoah Gyan the first chance of the game.
Gyan's control let him down but the striker who won man of the match awards in Ghana's first two games soon looked likely to be the major menace to Germany with his power and pace, at one point only being checked with a last-ditch tackle by Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Chances came thick and fast at either end, with Lahm forging forward one moment into the opposition box, being betrayed only by his final touch, and then having to funnel back and clear a Gyan header off the line with the calmness of a man playing a captain's innings. There were a few cries for handball, but it seemed more chest than arm.
Andrew Ayew, floated another tantalising cross in for Gyan, which he glanced just past the post.
Kingson, who rarely gets a look in at Wigan, again looked determined to grab this rare opportunity with alacrity, as he again made a fine scrambling stop from a Schweinsteiger free-kick, but when, soon after the break, Gyan's header released Kwadwo Asamoah, it was Manuel Neuer's turn to be the hero, smothering the shot brilliantly.
There was nothing, however, that Kingson could do with Ozil's dazzling piece of skill on the hour when found on the edge of the box by Thomas Muller, the Werder Bremen midfielder unleashed a left-foot volley which stands as one of the contenders for the goal of the tournament so far. Executed, too, by one of the players of the tournament. (©
Daily Telegraph, London)
GHANA -- Kingson, Pantsil, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah, Sarpei, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Annan, Asamoah, Tagoe (Muntari 64), Gyan (Amoah 81), Andre Ayew (Adiyah 90).
GERMANY -- Neuer, Boateng (Jansen 72), Friedrich, Mertesacker, Lahm, Khedira, Schweinsteiger (Kroos 81), Muller (Trochowski 68), Ozil, Podolski, Cacau.