Friday, Dec 19, 2014

FIFA World Cup: Ducking the one-two blow

Bastian Schweinsteiger (C) and Andre Schurrle (R) are in the reckoning for a starting spot for Germany. (Source: Reuters) Bastian Schweinsteiger (C) and Andre Schurrle (R) are in the reckoning for a starting spot for Germany. (Source: Reuters)
By: Associated Press | Porto Seguro | Posted: June 21, 2014 2:23 am | Updated: June 21, 2014 9:53 am

Germany repeated its feat from four years ago by opening the World Cup with a 4-0 victory. Now it’s hoping there won’t be a repeat of its second game in South Africa when it takes on Ghana on Saturday.

The Germans routed Australia to start its 2010 campaign, but then lost to Serbia 1-0 in the next game. After beating Portugal 4-0 in Brazil on Monday, Germany is wary of another letdown in Fortaleza against Ghana, the same team it beat 1-0 in its third game in South Africa to reach the knockout round.

“The second match from four years ago is a warning,” Germany defender Per Mertesacker said. “We opened very well, then lost. We’ll have to take it very seriously.”

Ghana lost its opening match 2-1 to the United States and can’t afford another loss, while Germany would all but clinch a spot in the knockout rounds with another win. A big downside from the opening win, though, was an injury picked up by central defender Mats Hummels. Hummels did not practice with the team on Thursday and a decision on his fitness won’t be made until shortly before the match.

“I hope he will be able to play, we’ve just started getting accustomed to playing alongside each other and to have more confidence,” Mertesacker said. “It would be a little question mark if Mats can’t play but we all know what we have to do.”

The rematch also brings together again the Boateng half-brothers, Jerome, a Germany defender, and Kevin-Prince, a forward for Ghana, who started on the bench against the United States. Regardless of whether he starts on Saturday, the Germans are quite familiar with their opponents.

“Ghana is a very physical team, they try to outplay you, they want to shine,” Mertesacker said. “They are a dangerous team and we’ll have to be very clever, especially in the heat. We’ll have to play good defense.”Ghana team officials have denied reports of a “player revolt” against coach Kwesi Appiah following the loss to the United States.

Revolt brewing?

Ghana’s Joy FM said players in particular Kevin-Prince Boateng, who plays for Schalke in Germany were unhappy with Appiah’s tactics in the defeat to the Americans. AC Milan’s Michael Essien also started on the bench.

The radio station misinterpreted the reason why a news conference at the team base in Maceio was postponed on Tuesday, the Ghana Football Association said, denying players had refused to report for the conference.

“We wish to state emphatically that the report is absolutely false and has no basis in fact,” the GFA said. “There is no player revolt against the coach of Black Stars and no player or players have been involved in any mutiny in the wake of the 2-1 defeat to the United States.”
Essien

was back in training after picking up a toe injury in the World Cup loss to the United States. The Ghana team said Essien missed training Wednesday but returned to practice Thursday.

Ghana made the quarterfinals at the World Cup in South Africa four years ago, only the third African team to go that far.

African teams are under the spotlight at the World Cup after simmering discontent in the Cameroon and Nigeria camps. Cameroon’s players initially refused to board a plane to Brazil over what they felt were poor bonuses and Nigeria’s preparations have also been distracted by issues surrounding player payments.

Only one of the five African teams at the World Cup, Ivory Coast, won in the first round of games. Nigeria drew 0-0 with Iran and Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria all lost. Cameroon lost its second, 4-0 to Croatia, and is already out of the tournament.

Germany is likely to stick to the same formation without a true striker, which worked so well against Portugal when Thomas Mueller scored a hat trick. Captain Philipp Lahm will continue in defensive midfield, assistant coach Hansi Flick said.

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