Jerome faced Kevin Prince as the brothers Boateng came together in a clash of European and African heavyweights when Germany played Ghana in Fortaleza on Saturday, but who came out on top and what does it mean for the tournament at large?
The even nature of the first half showed how far Ghana have come as a footballing nation and that they deserve to be competing with the best teams in the word. Ghana look a dangerous side on the break, with the pace of Chelsea’s Christian Atsu and Marseille’s Andre Ayew occasionally permitting them to escape the shackles of German domination. Indeed Manuel Neuer was forced to make what were arguably the two most difficult saves, albeit from distance, in an even first half.
BLACK STARS UPPED THE PACE
Ghana’s high intensity pressing game was faultless for the entirety of the first period and it is a pity that the difficulty of their draw means that their progression into the knockout remains unlikely they are a much more entertaining and tactically astute team than a number of the sides that will be progressing.
Germany meanwhile were far from the free flowing, high scoring side that brushed Portugal aside in their first game, although they were faced with less naivety from this well drilled Ghana side. The first half left a lot to be desired in terms of end product, but the ingredients, and indeed the quality, was obvious even at an early stage.
However, once Mario Gotze sloppily finished an inch perfect cross off his knee from the tournament’s in-form man Thomas Muller in the 51st minute, the game sprang into life. No sooner had Gotze put the Germans ahead than the Ghanaians; seemingly blessed with boundless energy to a man, piled forward in search of the crucial equaliser.
GERMANY WERE SLEEPING
And ultimately it was one of the players who had looked more dangerous in the first half, Andre Ayew, who dragged the African side back into it with an acrobatic header in the 54th minute.
Having got back into the game, Ghana dramatically, and deservedly, took the lead after an intelligent ball from Sulley Muntari to Gyan in the 63rd minute whose cool finish belied the difficulty of the task facing him. Ghana were in dream land for nearly 10 minutes, deservedly leading against one of the tournament favourites.
However, Germany’s veteran striker Miroslav Klose, who equalled Ronaldo’s record of 15 goals at World Cup Finals when he poked home from a corner, prematurely spoiled the party. The rest of the game was end to end with both teams having a number of chances in what was arguably the most entertaining game of the tournament so far by the time the referee finally blew his whistle; Ghana showing the kind of athleticism and desire that captured so many hearts four years ago on their path to the quarter finals.
Ghana’s high pressing and fast counter attacking shattered the myth that Germany are a team almost impossible to score against. The Ghanaians did what Cristiano Ronaldo et al. failed to do, putting two past arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, and one of the most intimidating defences at the tournament at that. They showed that this German side is not as comfortable as some sides when they are rushed into playing.
GERMANY'S WEAKNESSES WERE LAID BARE
Indeed, the draw showed us more about Germany than it did about Ghana. The African side’s strengths and weaknesses are fairly well known – they are always an energetic, attacking team that try to expose opponents with pace on the counter attack.
What it has taught us is that Germany are still an intimidating team, but they are by no means unbeatable. Ghana have provided others with a blueprint to compete with the physicality of the Germans; they will be encouraged to press high, to expend all energy not letting the Germans have time on the ball, and to use their fastest players to counter-attack.
If teams can trust a solid defence and use pace to counter Philip Lahm and his team as they pile forward, this may be the route to beating the European side. Germany scraped through with a draw here but it will be interesting, if teams like Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands can sure up their defences and unleash the immense pace in their attacking talent, to see how the Germans cope with slightly more finishing quality following a similar game plan to Ghana.