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Black Stars must rise to the occasion

By Ponga Liwewe in Johannesburg
Posted on Wednesday, 23 June 2010 09:56

The hopes of a continent rest with Ghana’s footballers tonight who need a win or draw against Germany to progress to the second round.

The die is cast for Ghana’s Black Stars as they face the daunting task of needing to draw or win against Germany tonight to ensure passage to the second round of the World Cup.

Ghana’s draw against Australia on Saturday means that a loss would leave their fate to the result of the other group game between Australia and Serbia. Several permutations and possible scenarios could result in Ghana’s elimination.

The Black Stars task tonight is made all the more difficult by the fact that Germany, who began the tournament with an emphatic 4-0 defeat of Australia, then spectacularly fizzled out and lost 1-0 to Serbia in their next match. It has left the Germans needing nothing less than a win to guarantee their place in the next round. A draw would place them in a similar situation to Ghana, where several outcomes from the other group match could determine their fate.

The game at Soccer City has the potential to become the most enthralling match of the group stages. The German attack has been decimated by the absence of Miroslav Klose, whose red card against Serbia rules him out of the Ghana match. His striking partner, Lucas Podolski received much of the criticism following Germany’s loss after missing several clear chances that an average goal scorer should have netted.

Germany’s attack will face a defence led by Ghana’s highly-influential but injury-prone centre back, John Mensah who is likely to return to the team after missing the Australia game through injury. Concerns around the availability of John Paintsil, who was injured against Australia, have subsided and he is expected to start.

The midfield battle will be critical for either side with the unheralded Anthony Annan likely to shadow Germany’s influential Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Ghanaian and Portsmouth midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng’s role in the injury that led to Chelsea’s Michael Ballack’s exclusion from the German squad after a brutal tackle during the FA Cup final, has brought him much unwanted scrutiny from the media. It could potentially unsettle him.

Both Ghana’s goals have come from the penalty spot and so much will depend on the ability of striker Asamoah Gyan to find the back of the net if Ghana are to progress. His striking partner Prince Tagoe has been ineffectual but against a German central defence of Per Mertesacker and Holger Badstuber that lacks pace, the opportunity is there for the taking.

History favours the Germans, who hold three World Cup titles and a reputation for rising to the occasion when it matters. But Ghana have shown that they are no pushover in their opening two matches and will be looking to slay the proverbial giant.