Another day, another group finished up and now we have the next set of Round of 16 matches: Germany’s 1-0 win over Ghana today combined with Australia’s 2-1 win over Serbia gives us England vs Germany and US vs Ghana.
I believe both match-ups will be interesting, but I don’t necessarily know how that interest will take shape. One would think a game between #6 Germany and #8 England would be rollicking…but England hasn’t exactly approached anything resembling rollicking in their group matches. Of course, after their opener, Germany has also seemed a bit lackluster. The match today was fairly even – Germany had a 54 – 46 edge in possession, but had fewer shots than Ghana. Passing was decent on both sides, but there was a lot of turnover action happening midfield in both directions. Both teams saw some good chances wasted, and both teams had moments of good defense. The difference in the game was a beautiful left-footed strike from Mesut Ozil, but other than that there wasn’t much to write home about. Is England a better team than Ghana? In general, I’d say yes, but as we’ve seen in this World Cup, that doesn’t mean much. England certainly hasn’t played up to their potential thus far, but neither did Germany today nor last week against Serbia. Having finished second behind the US, England may be driven to kick ass or they may be deflated by the negative press they’ve received and by their own disappointment. My feeling is that Germany is the stronger side right now and holds the momentum, but if the England Egos can be corralled and if all those stars can come together, it could be quite a battle.
The US v Ghana match will be intriguing, what with the memories of the Americans’ loss to the African side back in the 2006 World Cup, leading to a plane ride home for Donovan et al. Can this rather different US squad make up for that disheartening game? Looking at how they’ve played, I’d say absolutely, but knowing the troubles with consistency…I’ll knock on wood and say probably. As mentioned, Ghana seemed to hold up decently against Germany but throughout the match seemed unable to keep up a constant flow – in the beginning portion they were slow and losing possession easily; the end of the first half saw them pick it up and become the more dangerous attacking side; in the second half they continued to push but not well enough, and couldn’t seem to put much together when they did hold the ball. The US will need to exploit those soft moments, and they have the speed to do so, but does their defense have the strength to support it?
As for Australia’s tough win over Serbia, it sounds like a valiant effort and it’s a result the Australians should be proud of, even if it didn’t secure a spot in the knockout round for them. If not for the 4-0 stomping they took in the opener against Germany, it might be a different story, as second-half goals from Tim Cahill and Brett Holman weren’t enough to overcome the goal difference. Their defense did well to hold off Serbia, who didn’t find the net until the 84th minute, and a handful of tweets told me Marko Pantelic’s shot came from an offside position. Going home on a strong finish still means going home, but fighting to the last minute means heads should be held high.