Joachim Loew took a big gamble on this match. And won. Barely. Over-committing everyone forward left us extremely vulnerable to Ghana’s quick counter-attacks. In the first half, fantastic goal-keeping by Manuel Neuer and last man stands by Arne Friedrich prevented the Black Stars from going up early.
Strangely enough, the only German player not playing forward was the one who should have. Cacau played most of the first half behind Oezil and Mueller. Being unable to crack the Ghanaian back four, he was content to let loose a few long volleys, but was never really considered a striking threat.
Philipp Lahm, unusually for him, got caught with his pants down several times in the opening half. His pairing with Thomas Mueller, on the flank, was largely ineffectual. Although, that’s on Mueller--- not the German captain. Piotr Trochowski was brought in for Mueller, and Lahm opened the second half as a midfielder; trying to bolster the offensive chances for die Mannschaft.
Mesut Oezil squandered an excellent one-on-one opportunity in the first half, but made up for it in the second, on the hour, when he struck the lone goal of the match; the one that ultimately sent us to the top of Group D (The Group of Depth).
Marcell Jansen and Toni Kroos came on for Jerome Boateng and Bastian Schweinsteiger, respectively, late in the second half, as both starters had succumbed to injury. The subs both played well, especially Kroos; playing out of position in holding midfield. He’ll be an admirable replacement to start for Schweinsteiger, who may not be match fit for Sunday’s clash with England.
All-in-all, it wasn’t a pleasant match to watch--- from a German standpoint. My friends, however, have noted that it’s fun to watch me watch my matches, as I’m prone to swearing (half English, half German), pacing and hopping about. This was another match that left me drained after 90 minutes, much like the last group stage match against Austria in ‘08.
But, we’re through. And through on top. There’s something to be said for that, as tricky and complicated as Group D turned out to be. I always figured we’d be playing USA in the round of 16. But instead, thanks to Landon Donovan’s last gasp goal that sent the Americans top of Group C, we’ve got an early, gaudy, rowdy match-up (or should I say bust-up?) with England.
And, that is the match I’ve dreamt of writing about… More to come.