By Mike Woitalla
Group G is starting to look a little more like the "Group of Death" it was billed as thanks to Ghana finding life support with a 2-2 tie against Germany. Here what's we learned about the Germany, the USA's final group opponent, and Ghana, whose Saturday performance makes the U.S. win last Monday all the more impressive.
KLOSE THE CLOSER. “Klose saves Germany from Debacle against Ghana” is how one German headline headline put it. The 36-year-old Miroslav Klose, the only holdover from Germany’s 2002 World Cup runner-up squad, made his first appearance of this World Cup as a 69th-minute sub and scored within two minutes. Klose slid in to poke Benedikt Hoewedes’ header off a corner kick into the net to earn Germany a 2-2 tie.
Klose was playing amateur ball within a year of debuting for Germany in 2001. His strike on Saturday gives him 15 World Cup goals, tying him with Brazil’s Ronaldo for the all-time record and moving him ahead West Germany’s Gerd Mueller, who scored his 14 goals in two World Cups (1970-74). Ronaldo scored his in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
OZIL STILL NOT IN TOP FORM. German playmaker Mesut Ozil improved from his lackluster performance in the 4-0 win over Portugal as he set up chances for Sami Khedira, Thomas Mueller and Mario Goetzeagainst Ghana. But Ozil, who switched wings throughout the game, remained a fringe figure when he’s supposed to be a key orchestrator. He lost the ball a couple times late in the game to test Coach Joachim Loew’s nerves. Thomas Mueller, hat trick hero against Portugal, came up empty but delivered the defense-splitting pass that Goetze headed via his knee into the net for the first German goal, in the 51st minute.
The Germans will be pleased that injury-plagued veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a 70th-minute sub, looks to be on his way back.
GOOD THING GYAN RETURNED. Even in the first half, Ghana tested German keeper Manuel Neuer more than the Germans threatenedFatawu Dauda. In a much more wide open game than on Monday when the Americans went up ahead in the 1st minute, the Ghanaians launched lightning quick counters and relied less on speculative long-range efforts. Andrew Ayew, who scored against the USA, headed home for Ghana to equalize two minutes after Goetze’s strike.
Asamoah Gyan gave Ghana the lead after German captain Philipp Lahm lost the ball in midfield to Sulley Muntari, who sent Gyan into the penalty area to slam past Neuer.
At the 2010 World Cup, Gyan missed an overtime penalty kick -- against Uruguay after Luis Suarez’s handball – that would have made Ghana the first African team to reach the semifinals. Two years later, he missed from the spot in the semis of the African Cup of Nations and quit the national team because Ghanaian fans responded so harshly. He returned within a year and captains the Black Stars at this World Cup.
GOING FORWARD. Ghana may have found its groove but it doesn’t control its own destiny. The Ghanaians will be rooting for Portugal, which it must beat in its final game, when the Portuguese face the USA on Sunday.
If the USA beats Portugal on Sunday, the USA clinches a second-round spot and Ghana will need the USA to beat Germany to have any chance. If Portugal and the USA tie, a USA-Germany tie sends both through and no matter what the Ghana-Portugal result is.
No matter how it turns out, Ghana has at least upped the drama.