Loew insists Germany can hold nerve in tight spot
IT IS not just England who are staring into the abyss. If Germany fail to beat Ghana today, and Serbia defeat Australia, the three-time winners will be out of the World Cup at the opening stage for the first time since 1938. There is a key difference, however, between their situation and England's: Germany are playing well.
Having thrashed Australia 4-0, they were unfortunate to lose to Serbia. Having had Miroslav Klose unjustly sent off, Germany still dominated, but lost after Lukas Podolski became the first German international to miss a penalty since 1974.
Nevertheless, when coach Joachim Loew said yesterday: "We are convinced we can win this game and can get into the next round," it did not have that 'whistling in the wind' air that similar sentiments carry from the England camp.
"When I talk to the players, I do not get the impression they are nervous or worried after the defeat against Serbia," Loew added. "Although it is very young, the team has this confidence and inner conviction that it can beat Ghana. We've digested the defeat, we're focused. Pressure is there in any game. Our players can deal with the situation."
A draw at Johannesburg's Soccer City will be enough for Germany provided Serbia do not win in Nelspruit. Ghana will progress with a win or draw. Any win will take Australia through if Germany lose and Blackburn's Brett Emerton said they were focusing on winning their game first, then worrying about how many. "We won't go gung-ho," he said. "We will still have a strategic plan and hopefully Ghana can come up with an upset against Germany.
"I've done the calculations plenty of times. We've all talked about the different scenarios. It's still possible. Germany could beat Ghana by three or four and that means we can beat the Serbs by one or two. It's still mathematically possible and we'll give it our best shot. If we get the win, we can walk away with our heads held high."
The Socceroos will be spurred on by a sense of injustice after their two star players, Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell, received questionable red cards in the opening games. Kewell is suspended tonight, but Cahill is back.
"We know we haven't got the rub of the green," Emerton said. "We've played the majority of this World Cup with 10 men and both have been very, very harsh red cards," he added. "It's disappointing to lose Harry, but we get Tim back and after our good performance against Ghana, we should go into this match full of confidence."
The Serbia coach Raddy Antic is likely to recall defender Aleksandar Lukovic after suspension.
One historical footnote to watch out for in Johannesburg is whether Jerome Boateng and Kevin-Prince Boateng become the first brothers to play against each other in a World Cup tie. Both are German-born with a Ghanaian mother and German father. Manchester City-bound Jerome is likely to be on the bench for Germany but Portsmouth's Kevin-Prince should start. He was only cleared to play for Ghana shortly before the finals, but is now keeping Internazionale's Sully Muntari out of the team. (© Independent News Service)