Next up for Ghana are an Australia side who suffered more than just wounded pride in their 4-0 defeat to Germany; the thrashing was a serious blow to Aussie hopes of qualifying.
The Black Stars know that if they beat the Socceroos in Rustenburg tomorrow then they will be through and Australia will almost certainly be eliminated. With all that in mind, the stakes couldn’t be higher in this Group D encounter between two sides who both reached the Second Round four years ago.
This time around, being drawn alongside a formidable looking German side in the group stage means that there is probably only room for one of these teams in the next round, with Ghana looking well placed to qualify after the opening set of fixtures. It is still all to play for though; were Germany and Ghana to win their next games then they would both to qualify, but were Serbia and Australia to take three points, they would blow the group wide open.
Ghana showed great quality in their 1-0 victory over Serbia, and play a similar system to the one which Germany employed to such effect against Australia in Durban on Sunday evening.
For impressive German trio Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Lukasz Podolski; read Andre Ayew, Prince Tagoe and Kwadwo Asamoah. The young Ghanaians may not have quite the same level of quality as the German three, but they are all highly promising players with their own box of tricks. They are also blessed with the pace to wreak havoc amongst an aged Australian backline that struggled so miserably against Germany.
In the form of forward Asamoah Gyan, Ghana also have a forward with the potential to cause real problems for Lucas Neill and Craig Moore in the heart of Australia’s defence. Moore and Neill coped reasonably well with Miroslav Klose for long stretches against the Germans, but the pace and movement of Gyan is another proposition entirely.
Not only did Gyan score Ghana’s winner in the opening game, he also hit the post twice and on another day could have had a hat trick. Ghana will be hoping for more of the same from their all-time top goal scorer in World Cup finals.
The Ghanaian back-line looked reasonably solid in their opening game, with centre back pairing John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah coping admirably with the varied threats posed by the Serbian attack. They will be hoping for a similarly solid performance this time around and veteran ‘keeper Richard Kingson would love to keep a second successive clean sheet.
Make no mistake though; Australia are far from dead and buried. Ghana may be favourites for this game, but the Aussies will give everything to regain their pride and hold onto a chance of qualification.
Unfortunately for them, they will have to do so without their best player. Midfielder Tim Cahill; suspended after a rather harsh red card against Germany, is the heartbeat of the Australian side as well as their most likely goal scorer and will be a huge miss here. He is as important to Australia as the absent Michael Essien is to Ghana, and it is a shame that each country’s top man will not be on the field when battle commences.
Australia do possess attacking threats besides Cahill though; Brett Emerton, Jason Culina and Richard Garcia showed glimpses of their ability against Germany. They are likely to be joined by giant forward Josh Kennedy in this game after Cahill’s suspension, although Kennedy is a less gifted version of Serbian front man Nikola Zigic who Ghana dealt with fairly comfortably. A more viable alternative to Kennedy may be precocious forward Harry Kewell, who has the potential to perform brilliantly or terribly on any given day.
Australia’s only enforced change will be due to Cahill’s suspension; whether or not they decide to make other changes to shake things up after their terrible opener remains to be seen. Ghana will likely keep the same starting XI as the team which beat Serbia last time around.
Overall, it is a clash of cultures in many ways; Ghana’s flair, youth and speed going up against Australia’s discipline, experience and strength. Who will come out on top remains to be seen, but with World Cup futures at stake, the motivation to perform could not be higher.