Germany favourites? Think again

Germany favourites? Think again
Gyan Gem: Ghana's Asamoah Gyan (above) expressing joy after giving Ghana a 2-1 lead (inset).

GROUP G

GERMANY 2
(Mario Goetze 51, Miroslav Klose 71)

GHANA 2
(Andre Ayew 54, Asamoah Gyan 63)

With guts and guile, Ghana equalised against the Germans, took the lead, but eventually had to settle for a fully deserved point yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Alas, their fairy-tale finish to the match was denied by Germany's trusty old 36-year-old servant Miroslav Klose, who netted a record-equalling 15th goal at the World Cup Finals.

But another European heavyweight has been served a stern reminder of their arduous mission in Brazil.

They are going to have their work cut out for them. The Germans, hottest favourites from the continent, were expected to win, but they were staring at defeat for eight minutes in the second half.

But then again, the alarm bells have already been set off before this game.

The hoodoo - no European team have won the World Cup on South American soil - has already claimed two casualties, and former world champions at that.

Spain were booted out of the tournament by dark horses Chile.

England left their hopes of progressing to the knock-out stages hanging by a thread after their 2-1 defeat by Uruguay.

Costa Rica's dismantling of Italy subsequently confirmed the Three Lions' exit, and in the process of beating the Azzurri, the central Americans added to growing evidence that the gulf in quality between the traditional powerhouses and the supposed minnows is narrowing.

Those tipped to fly the European flag high, after convincing performances in their opening games, also met with road blocks in the second match.

CAN EUROPE COPE?

Germany are one example, Italy another.

Holland, too, encountered plenty of difficulties before scraping past Australia 3-2.

Only France, who followed up on their 3-0 opening win over Honduras with a 5-2 thumping of Switzerland last Saturday, managed to continue full steam ahead.

The climate in Brazil is one factor for Europe's struggles.

The mercury level in Fortaleza, where Germany took on Ghana, for instance, hit 29 deg C.

Italy, too, clearly struggled in the sapping conditions against the Costa Ricans. But it is more than heat that the Europeans are feeling. Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan's assessment of his team's performance was telling. They played a "tactically perfect" and "intelligent" game, he said.

These aren't traits normally associated with underdogs such as Ghana, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile or even Australia, but there has been a cohesiveness and organisation about them that the big-game hunters are still struggling to overcome.

ATTACKING TRIO

Ghana were set up to attack Joachim Loew's men, because they needed the points after losing their first match to the US.

So they deployed Gyan up front and strung an attacking trio of Andre Ayew, Christian Atsu and Kevin-Prince Boateng behind him.

At the back, they kept their discipline, shape and focus to repel threats of Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil and Mario Goetze.

Ghana had the marginally better goal-scoring chances in the first half.

They played it smart, attacking in numbers when they had the chance to.

When Harrison Afful crossed into the penalty box for Ayew in the 54th minute, they were three-on-three against the German defenders in the penalty box.

Less than 10 minutes later, Sulley Muntari pickpocketed the German midfield before threading an inch-perfect through-ball for Gyan to put Ghana 2-1 up.

Klose might have rescued a point for Germany, but the lightweights have proven a point.

They went to Brazil armed to the teeth. The European heavyweights won't find South America a particularly endearing place.

garylim@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 23, 2014.
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