Today, after a first 45 minutes of two sides feeling each other out, we saw a brilliant 2nd half which ultimately failed to separate the two sides. In fairness a 2-2 draw was probably a fair result as it highlighted Germany’s ability to penetrate Ghana’s defense but also rewarded Ghana’s sharp counter-attack and punished Germany’s lack of pace on the back line.
FORMATION & LINE-UPS
Germany (4-3-3): Neuer, Höwedes, Hummels, Mertesacker, Boateng (Mustafi 45′), Lahm, Kroos, Khedira (Schweinsteiger 70′) , Götze (Klose 70′) , Ozil, Müller
Ghana (4-2-3-1): Dauda, Asamoah, Mensah, Boye, Afful, Rabiu (Badu 78′), Muntari, A. Ayew, K. Boateng (J. Ayew 56′), Atsu (Wakaso 72′), Gyan
Goals: Götze 51′, A. Ayew 53′, Gyan 63′, Klose 71′
What Happens When Both Teams Want to Counterattack?
This game. Germany is one of the most famous counter-attacking sides on earth. They’ve put a number of teams to the sword over the years, most recently and devastatingly the Portuguese. Today, we saw a Germany that was forced to be the team that keeps possession and builds up from midfield. This is an uncomfortable role for the Germans and it has been over the years. In 2010 Ghana and Serbia were both able to frustrate Germany by forcing them to build up from the back. The teams who stood toe-to-toe with Germany (England, Argentina) were summarily destroyed by swift German counters.
Ghana learned from the past and put in a performance that Germany would have preferred to adopt. Ghana, and in particular Andre Ayew and Christian Atsu had fantastic games in attack. Their pace on the wings terrorized the German defense and Gyan was able to get between Mertesacker and Hummels for Ghana’s 2nd goal. Ghana’s success on the counter emphasized their discomfort in the game against the United States. They looked largely straightforward when they were trying to build attacks. On the break, they looked very dangerous and, with one exception, they were sharp. 2 goals where Cristiano and co. managed 0 is quite the accomplishment and Ghana can feel comfortable going into a game against a Portugal side that has already been burnt by this approach once in this tournament.
German Full Backs
The previous point brought this up but it is going to be an issue if Germany cannot fix this issue. Boateng and then Mustafi were not up to par against the pace and directness of Ghana’s wingers. Boateng was hauled off at half time without completing a tackle or an interception and only making 2 clearances. Mustafi was mildly assured in most parts of his game but he also didn’t make a tackle or interception and lost Andre Ayew on the first Ghana goal. Höwedes put in a much more solid shift than his counterparts but does not offer much offensively which caused a couple of Germany’s moves to break down.
The starting lineup for Germany featured four center backs. Boateng and Höwedes can fill in on the wings but it is not their preferred position. Mustafi is a full back but he has only had a short time at the top level. This is going to be a difficult area for the Germans as all of the top teams have a lot of talent on the wings and they will need to improve. Kevin Großkreutz or Erik Durm could be preferred in the coming days to Höwedes if Germany need goals against the United States in their final group game.
The German system using the false nine looked far less lethal than it did against the Portuguese. This was partially due to brave defending from the Ghanaians but the rotation that worked so well against Portugal did not work to the same effect today. Götze did eventually get the 1st goal, but he did not look assured when he got into the box. This could be the occassion being slightly daunting, but Germany looked less dangerous when it wasn’t Müller playing through the middle. He pushed out wide in order to become more involved in the play because of Ghana’s pressing and was not in the positions that Germany needed him in.
The way that Ghana pressed the Germans made it difficult for Germany to complete many forward passes but it did leave the back four of Ghana susceptible to Müller’s movement. Unfortunately he floated out wide and although it did lead to Germany’s first goal, it left Germany wanting for a true goalscorer. Klose’s introduction saved Germany’s blushes but these cameo appearances will be all he will be able to muster.
KEY PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Harrison Afful. He put in a good shift and assisted a goal for the Ghanaians which could prove vital in this race for qualification from the Group of Death. Afful made all of his tackles, won both of his headed duels, made 6 interceptions and 2 clearances. His play on the right made life difficult for Mario Götze and the rest of Germany because of his pressing. His cross that allowed Andre Ayew to head in the goal was brilliant. Kwadwo Asamoah gets an honorable mention for his game saving tackle on Thomas Müller which would have been a goal if not for his intervention.
I’d also be remiss not to mention Miroslav Klose, whose goal for Germany not only equalized the game but it put Klose on terms with the legend Ronaldo as the joint record holder for most goals scored at a World Cup. It also put him in a group of 3 players to ever score at 4 different World Cups
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THEM
Germany went in to the game with Ghana with expectations of qualifying for the knockout rounds but as in the past, this tournament will see Germany needing points in their final game to assure qualification. The United States were tough for Ghana but it may be tough for the North Americans to put up a fight with the Germans.
Ghana’s draw keeps them in the hunt for qualification, but only barely. Ghana will be hoping for a United States loss against Portugal so that they have a chance to beat Portugal in the final group game and then root for Germany against the US as well. Any results from the United States will put Ghana in severe risk of going out.
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