Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
This group has been called by some observers as the real group of death. It features a clear favorite in Germany, however all of the four teams in Group D will have aims on advancing to the knockout rounds.
As stated, Germany are the top-seeded team in Group D and even without the injured Michael Ballack are the side to beat from this section. Australia are back at the World Cup after giving a superb account of themselves in Germany four years ago. Serbia finished atop a very difficult qualifying section in Europe and enter the tournament hoping to improve on their poor performance at the 2006 finals. Ghana meanwhile are one of the strongest African sides, though how they manage to deal with the loss of their captain Michael Essien could perhaps determine how far they go in South Africa.
What Should Happen
Germany won’t necessarily glide into the second round, though they are expected to advance as the first placed team. Should this occur then it would be a real dogfight for second spot. The edge might go to Serbia who may have learned their lesson from four years ago and will be a very tough team to play if they can recapture their qualifying form.
Australia and Ghana should not be discounted though both teams face many questions at this World Cup after both sides advanced to the knockout round of the 2006 World Cup. Australia have had some key personnel leave international football in the last four years while Ghana have a squad packed with young talent many of whom have never been tested at this level.
What Might Happen Instead
It’s not inconceivable that Germany struggle out of the gates in Group D. If this happens then this is undoubtedly a group that could be decided on the final day. Could Joachim Loew’s side really miss out? The answer is yes, if certain conditions arise. The absence of Ballack may yet be a key as the Chelsea midfielder’s experience and status means that Germany really have no clear leader. The same goes for Ghana without Essien.
Should they struggle then Australia and Serbia could sneak through this section in what would be a mild surprise.
Serbia v Ghana in the opening weekend of the tournament could be the match that gives either side an early advantage for second in the group. It should be a fascinating fixture and one with great importance. Germany are the favorites in the group and Australia are considered by many not to be as strong as four years ago, thus Serbia and Ghana’s match at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria could be key in deciding a spot in the Round of 16.
Players To Watch
Bastian Schweinsteiger will have to step up in the German midfield in the absence of Ballack. The Bayern Munich star has a habit of drifting in and out of matches, however if Germany are to go far in this tournament, Schweinsteiger will have to be at his all-action talented best.
When it comes to the Socceroos of Australia, the main man is Everton midfielder Tim Cahill. The dynamic Cahill is a player who has a knack for scoring from his position behind the strikers and with the absence of any star forwards, the Aussies will be looking for goals and inspiration from Cahill.
Serbian fans still have memories of the six goals they gave up to Argentina in Germany four years back, however it is nearly impossible to believe that will happen again especially with the pressure of Nemanja Vidic in the team. The Manchester United center back has emerged as one of the top-rated defenders in the world and will ensure that Serbia will be a tight unit at the back.
With Essien ruled out for the World Cup, the attention for Ghana must turn to Sulley Muntari. Muntari has had a checkered history with the national team with many having questioned his commitment to the cause in the past. He is undoubtedly a talented player though and the Inter Milan has the ability to give Ghana the quality it needs in the middle of the park.
One Game, One World Prediction
At OGOW, we see Germany advancing from this group perhaps a bit easier than initially thought. The Aussies will bring desire and passion to the table, however at this World Cup it appears that they may lack the quality to advance from such a tough group.
That leaves Serbia and Ghana. Ghana could surprise with the inclusion of many youngsters from the U20 side that won the FIFA Youth World Cup last year and let’s not forget that even without Essien this team made it to the final of the African Nations’ Cup in January. Serbia look like a solid team all the way around and will be looking to turn a few heads after their debacle in 2006. It might be a stretch, but we will go ahead and pick Ghana for second place citing their youth, dynamism and the presence of a superb tactician in Milovan Rajevac.
Did we get it right? Will Germany and Ghana emerge from Group D, or will it be Serbia and Australia? Drop us a line and let us know your views!