Germans book showdown with old enemy after Ozil finds range

Ghana 0 Germany 1
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The Independent Football

World Cup hostilities between England and Germany will be resumed in Bloemfontein on Sunday after the old enemy beat Ghana to finish top of Group D in Johannesburg last night. In an entertaining contest the Germans, in an unfamiliar all-black strip, found it hard work eclipsing the Black Stars, who qualify with them as runners-up thanks to Serbia's defeat by Australia.

Ghana are the last African survivors. Failing to beat Australia's 10 men last Saturday after Harry Kewell was sent off might have been costly but they were enterprising enough here to deserve a chance in the second round, against the United States on Saturday; they may even consider that a preferable task, no African team ever having beaten England. Despite knowing that a draw would see them through, they declined to play for one and contributed to a game that always moved quickly from end to end.

In Europe, however, the talk from now until the weekend will be of 1966 and all that followed: 1970, 1990, the 5-1 game in Munich and the rest. As ever, England will find the Germans well-organised opponents, if perhaps lacking in flair. Last night they never quite brought their most creative player, Mesut Ozil, into the game for long enough periods, although he still scored the only goal to relax his team after a difficult first hour.

As three minutes of added time were indicated, press-box cynics were suggesting that the Germans might throw in an equaliser in order to avoid meeting England, with the possibility of Argentina to follow. There was never any hint of that and a tired Ghana seemed grateful enough that Serbia's late rally in the other group match did not bring them greater reward.

Ozil, star of last summer's European Under-21 Championship, when Germany drubbed England 4-0 in the final, is one of the younger brigade brought in to freshen up a squad that performed well enough to finish third in their "home" World Cup four years ago. Other more familiar names remain, with Bastian Schweinsteiger still an influence just behind Ozil in midfield, Per Mertesacker and Philipp Lahm in defence and Miroslav Klose (suspended last night) and Lukas Podolski retained despite their lack of club goals.

Last night there was a new name at left-back, making history: Jérôme Boateng was promoted in place of Holger Badstuber, with his half-brother Kevin-Prince Boateng of Portsmouth in opposition. The latter, whose bad tackle in the FA Cup final put Germany's Michael Ballack out of the tournament, has apparently been forgiven by his sibling, though it appeared that the thousands of Germans in the crowd took a less tolerant view.

Ghana had Sunderland's centre-half John Mensah back after injury alongside Jonathan Mensah – not his brother – who almost conceded an early own goal from Podolski's cross. A surprisingly open game broke out, with a whole raft of chances around the midway point of the first half. Mertesacker lost possession, allowing Asamoah Gyan clear but his touch was heavy; the lively Gyan then forced Lahm to clear his header off the line following a corner and Ghana's Boateng glanced a header wide.

Germany wasted the best opportunity, however, when Ozil was sent clean through, only for Wigan's Richard Kingson to block the shot with his legs. The goalkeeper then put his team under pressure by only parrying a bouncing free-kick from Schweinsteiger. By half-time, with the other game goalless, Ghana remained in pole position.

Podolski set the tone from the restart, hitting a fierce drive from distance that did not quite dip enough, before Ghana wasted a chance as equally clear as Ozil's. Gyan was the provider with a header through for Kwadwo Asamoah, whose shot was well parried by Manuel Neuer.

With an hour played Germany seemed to be taking a grip for just about the first time, and a goal followed. Following a throw on the right, Thomas Müller knocked the ball square and Ozil, on the edge of the "D", hit a fine left-footed shot into the far corner of Kingson's net. So Germany were on top of the table, with Ghana just clinging to second place, having scored more goals than Serbia.

Ghana strove for an equaliser, Prince Tagoe heading into the side-netting and Andre Ayew being thwarted by Lahm's late intervention. Better for them was the fact that Australia scored twice in Nelspruit.

Germany's coach, Joachim Löw, said: "England haven't shown the best of form so far but make no mistake this is a wonderful team. Rooney can explode and has scored an unbelievable number of goals in the Premier League."

Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Friedrich, Mertesacker, J Boateng (Jansen, 72); Khedira, Schweinsteiger (Kroos, 81); Müller (Trochowski, 67), Ozil, Podolski; Cacau.

Ghana (4-2-3-1): Kingson; Pantsil, Jonathan Mensah, John Mensah, Sarpei; Annan, Boateng; Tagoe (Muntari, 63), Asamoah, Ayew; Gyan (Amoah, 82).

Referee C Simon (Brazil).

Man of the match Schweinsteiger.

Attendance 83,391.


Rene Zimmerman, a 30-year-old IT consultant from Teddington. Originally from Jena.

I enjoyed that match, it was a good result. I watched on the internet in the US and the atmosphere in the office was good. I am out here for work but I will be back in England for Sunday's game. I arrive back in England at the weekend and will watch the game in the pub with some mates. I am not sure if we will wear the white kit though! It will be a good game, I am looking forward to seeing the papers in the build-up. We lost to England in a friendly in Berlin two years ago, playing really bad in front of 60,000 people - you would expect more.. We won at Wembley the previous year though!

I have already received a few messages from people in England and Germany. I have taken a few calls from back home and could hear the car horns sounding in the background, they are really excited about the match! I have to say that England in the second round was the game I didn't want. I have been living in England for four years and will have split loyalties on Sunday as I want both to do well. If England win I will support them from then on. The match has a lot of history behind it and England will be well up for it. Our defence is quite similar to England's in that our two centrebacks are not pacy and I think England will get chances with Rooney and Defoe up front. Peter Crouch too, who I think is underrated - he scores a lot of goals. England's chances are good, the match is balanced 50/50. England have good players in Rooney and Lampard, Gerrard and Milner, who did well [against Slovenia]. If Germany win through I can surely see them going all the way. It is only a few more games, the quarter-final, semi-final and then final, although it depends on who you get. The winners on Sunday could face Argentina in the last eight, whom we beat at the same stage in 2006 on penalties.

We did well against Ghana and played in a great spirit. We deserved to win and played in the right spirit. Ghana did well, tried to attack and they have some good players who perform in the Premier League. Mesut Ozil's goal was an awesome finish and I glad he scored, maybe it will set him off for Sunday!

Have I been impressed by our performance so far? Absolutely. The first game was tremendous, although it helped when Tim Cahill got sent off! Not having Michael Ballack in the team appeared to be a big loss at the time but it has helped give some of the younger players a chance, like Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger. In the Australia game we played a quick, good way and I think it was the best match in the first round. Against Serbia, even though we lost, we tried to play football the right, passing way, not the long ball. Against Australia we were keeping possession well, passing the ball and holding it well in midfield. We worked together and as a team.