With South Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria all eliminated, and Ivory Coast and Algeria on the brink, the World Cup hopes of the entire African continent rest squarely on the shoulders of Ghana.
Ghana go into their final group game against Germany tomorrow knowing that a draw is enough to take them through to the Second Round. The Black Stars face a stern test against Germany, and will be well aware that they are staring down the barrel of a potential German backlash.
Germany’s defeat to Serbia came as a complete shock, particularly given their 4-0 demolition of Australia in their opening game. The Germans know that they must win to guarantee qualification, as it would take an unlikely set of circumstances for them to qualify if they only managed to draw.
Ghana’s young and talented side are severely lacking in World Cup experience, so the possibility of them playing for a draw seems unlikely. The stage is set for a pulsating encounter between two young and technically gifted teams, with stars like Germany’s Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski and Ghana’s Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Asamoah Gyan all eager to make their mark on the game.
Gyan will be looking to add to his World Cup tally against Germany
Ghana have played some decent football in their first two games, but have struggled to find their cutting edge in the final third, with both of their goals so far coming from penalty kicks. They also looked vulnerable defensively against Australia, with rookie centre back pairing Jonathan Mensah and Lee Addy doing little to inspire confidence throughout the Aussie encounter.
Ghana will be desperate to welcome back first choice pairing Isaac Vorsah and team captain John Mensah, both of who missed the Australia game but have returned to full training in the days leading up to this game. If the two key defenders are fit they will certainly return to the starting XI, but other than that Ghana are likely to keep the same side that has taken four points from their two games.
Much will be expected from Asamoah Gyan, the team’s main goal threat. Gyan has looked lively in both games, but needs more support from the attacking midfield trio of Ayew, Asamoah and Prince Tagoe which operates behind him.
Anthony Annan and Kevin-Prince Boateng have been fantastic in both games so far, providing drive, intensity and quality in the Ghanaian midfield. They will be required to provide a great deal of protection to the defence as they seek to deal with the threat of Ozil, Muller and Podolski.
Keeping German playmaker Mesut Ozil quiet will be vital for Ghana
Germany will make at least one change; Miroslav Klose is suspended after his controversial dismissal against Serbia. He is likely to be replaced by Cacau, who got a goal after coming off the bench in the first game against Australia. German boss Joachim Loew has hinted that he may make other changes after the disappointing performance and result against Serbia.
An interesting side note for the game; Kevin-Prince Boateng, a likely started for Ghana, was born in Germany, and his brother Jerome is part of the German squad. If Jerome makes his first World Cup appearance in this game, the brothers Boateng would become the first siblings ever to play against each other in a World Cup finals.
This game is tough to call, and a lot depends on which Germany turn up; the team which was so brilliant against Australia or the team which was so dismal against Serbia. The prospect of a potential appearance in the knockout stages is a huge incentive to perform for these two sides, with the majority of players on both sides never having played in a World Cup before.
A lot will depend on how Ghana defend, and if Vorsah and Mensah do return it will be a huge defensive boost for the Black Stars. With the attacking talent on both teams, it would be no surprise to see plenty of goals, with Ghanaian supporters joined by fans across Africa in hoping that Ghana at least match the German goal haul come full-time. If not, the first World Cup on African soil could see every one of its African teams crash out in the group stage, and that would disappoint not just a nation, but an entire continent. Talk about pressure.