Ghana the lone stars of Africa to go through … so far

2010-06-24 00:00

THANKFULLY, Africa will have at least one team in the second round of the World Cup after Ghana became the first team from the continent to qualify for the last-16, despite their 1-0 Group D defeat to Germany at Soccer City last night.

Four of the African teams have been knocked out already, and with Ivory Coast facing a mission impossible to progress from Group G, the Black Stars are set to be Africa’s lone stars in the knockout stages.

With Australia recovering from their opening 4-0 defeat to Germany with a 2-1 victory over Serbia in Nelspruit, Ghana finished second in Group D on four points with a superior goal difference (0) to the Socceroos (-3).

Ghana might not have been too displeased to finish runners-up. The cut-throat nature of this World Cup, in which almost every match has been a closely contested war, is likely to throw up some big-name clashes as early as the second round.

And they don’t come much bigger than England against Germany, the third last-16 fixture that will be played in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

England finished second in Group C to USA with a 1-0 win over Slovenia yesterday. The Americans, 1-0 winners over Algeria, face Ghana in their last-16 clash in Rustenburg on Saturday.

Following their dynamic, attacking start against Australia, Germany slipped up with a 1-0 defeat against Serbia, and would not have advanced beyond the first round for the first time if they had lost last night.

Both sides had their chances, but it was Germany’s slippery danger forward, Mesut Oezil, whose scorching second-half goal earned his side victory.

With Miroslav Klose suspended, Joachim Loew started with Brazilian-born striker Cacau up-front.

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac brought back captain John Mensah to his central defence, having missed the side’s 1-1 draw against Australia.

Sulley Muntari, reprimanded by the Ghanaian FA for an argument with Rajevac during training, came off the bench in the second half.

Early on, Free State Stars defender Jonathan Mensah — the namesake and central defensive partner of the Ghanaian captain — almost turned Lukas Podolski’s low cross into his own net, with Richard Kingson forced to make a sharp save.

In the 25th minute, Kingson spread himself well to block Oezil’s attempt after the forward too easily beat the offside trap from Cacau’s pass.

At the other end, Asamoah Gyan’s header from Andre Ayew’s corner was cleared off the German goal-line by Philipp Lahm with a hint of handball.

The Ghanaians could have taken the lead early in the second half when space opened for Gyan on the left, but the big striker could not get the power or direction on his shot to beat goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. In the 61st minute, the Germans’ patient approach paid off. After an intricate build-up, Thomas Mueller’s pass from the right picked out Oezil lurking on the edge of the area, who teed the ball up and drove it into the top-left corner.

Almost immediately Ghana had a chance to equalise when Prince Tagoe’s header was blocked by Jerome Boateng — the German left-back who was playing against brother Kevin Prince Boateng in a first for the World Cup.

Gyan’s backheel fed Ayew in the centre, with Lahm sliding in to make a crucial block. Germany closed the Ghanians down for the final 20 minutes.

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