Germany made a storming start to the group stage by thumping Portugal 4-0, and Kevin Hatchard expects them to win an entertaining clash with struggling Ghana.
Any pre-tournament fears amongst Germany fans about injury problems and an unbalanced squad were swept away by an excellent 4-0 win against Portugal. Although it wasn't a perfect display (there is still a defensive weakness against counter-attacks, and I don't like centre-backs playing at full-back), it was an eye-catching opening statement, andJoachim Low's side flowed forward dangerously throughout the match.
Thomas MullerÂ rightly took the plaudits for his hat-trick, and if you took the advice from myÂ Group G previewÂ and backed him atÂ 36.0Â in theÂ Golden BootÂ market, you're in a strong position. At time of writing, the wily Bayern Munich forward is theÂ 3.9Â favourite to top the World Cup goal-scoring charts for the second tournament running.
Luckily for us, they don't take goals away for shameless play-acting, although Portugal defenderÂ PepeÂ still deserved to be sent off for the time-honoured offence of "being a plank". Who head-butts someone when they're already on the ground?
Germany centre-backÂ Mats HummelsÂ is a doubt for this game, having limped out of the Portugal clash with a thigh injury. He has played a limited part in training, and his chances of playing are rated at 50/50. If the Borussia Dortmund star does miss out, Jerome Boateng is likely to be switched to centre-back, with youngster Shkodran Mustafi a contender to start at right-back.
I'd be surprised if Low tinkers too much with the German attack, as it looked so dangerous against Portugal. Miroslav Klose is likely to be confined to the bench once again, with Muller taking the central striker's role between Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.Â Bastian Schweinsteiger is still carrying a knee injury,Â and may struggle to break into the side, as the triumvirate of Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and skipper Philipp Lahm were very effective against the Iberians.
Despite their puffed-up talk of a run to the semi-finals, Ghana's Black Stars well and truly blew it against USA in their opening group game, losing 2-1. Dozily conceding an opener after just 29 seconds was bad enough, but with the score at 1-1 with four minutes left, they clumsily gave up a corner from which the unmarked John Anthony Brooks headed home the winner.
That game really was there for the taking.Â Kwesi Appiah's side consistently found space on the edge of the USA box, and worked a number of good crossing positions. However, the final pass or cross was all too often atrocious, and it says a lot that just three of Ghana's 21 goal attempts were on target.
Juventus first-team regularÂ Kwadwo AsamoahÂ has pleaded with his coach Appiah to let him play further forward, as he was somewhat shackled playing at left-back against USA. I understand why Appiah played him there though, as Ghana's other options at left-back are accidents waiting to happen.
Right-back Daniel Opare should be fit to start despite picking up a knock in training, whileÂ Michael Essien,Â who was surprisingly left out of the starting XI for the USA game, is in contention despite a toe injury. Attacking midfielderÂ Kevin-Prince BoatengÂ is pushing for a start, and could face his brother Jerome in a World Cup Finals match for the second tournament running.
Germany have developed a chronic case of "second game syndrome" in recent World Cup group stages. In the last five World Cups they have contested, Germany have won their second match just once, a 1-0 success against Poland in 2006. Although you may be tempted to factor this into your pre-match calculations, I would advise against it.Â This is a German side that averaged 3.6 goals per game in qualifying,Â and has just demolished a big European rival. Although Ghana have pace and skill in attack, their defence is a huge worry, and the team lacks composure. I expect Germany to win this.