Following the emphatic four-goal thrashing of Portugal in Salvador, the growing sense of confidence in the Germany can would take a slight hit against a physical and energetic Ghana side in a hot and sticky Fortaleza. Not for the first time the Nationalmannschaft’s poor record in their second group game would come back to haunt them, but unlike four years ago in South Africa where they would suffer a 1-0 defeat to Serbia Joachim Löw’s side would this time grab a crucial point in what was arguably one of the matches of the tournament so far.
With both sides swinging punches like heavyweight boxers and the play switching from end to end, it was a good old-fashioned tussle: a fair and honest fight between a slick if at times careless German side and a carefree Ghana outfit that would put up a far better display than in their opening fixture against the United States.
Were I a neutral, I would have walked away raving about the game and how good it was as a spectacle. As a Germany fan however, I would constantly feel that I was having kittens. The final five minutes of added time alone would be a real energy-sapper, and I can only imagine how many pounds I’d have lost had I been there in north-eastern Brazil.
Ahead of the game there had been doubts about the fitness of centre-back Mats Hummels, but a successful final training session would see him fit to start as part of an unchanged German starting eleven. The rout of the dangerous Portuguese had instilled a new sense of confidence in the team and the coach’s tactics, and almost everybody would be expecting nothing less than a win against a Ghanaian side that had looked flat and at times clueless in their 2-1 defeat to the US.
But football is a strange beast – in the words of Jimmy Greaves, “a funny old game” – and this tournament in particular has seen a number of moments where teams not expected to succeed have played out of their skin. This would be one of those days, and it would take a special moment to save the Germans from the embarrassment of defeat.
Facts and Stats
This would be Germany’s third match against Ghana, and the second in the World Cup following the meeting in South Africa in 2010 which would be settled by a stunning Mesut Özil strike on the hour mark. The first game in Bochum between the two countries in 1993 had seen the Germans recover from a 1-0 half-time deficit to storm to a 6-1 win – with all of their goals coming in a nineteen-minute spell after the 69th minute – including three goals in the space of sixty seconds.
Perhaps the biggest milestone at the start of the match would be the international hundredth appearance for Per Mertesacker, who would become Germany’s tenth centurion. One of the unsung members of the teal, the tall Arsenal centre-back would reach the mark in less than ten years, having made his debut as a twenty year old against Iran in Tehran in September 2004.
There would be a number of other records set during the game itself: Mario Götze’s opening goal on fifty-one minutes would be the first goal scored against Ghana before the hour mark, and less than two minutes after his arrival as a late substitute Miroslav Klose would finally equal the World Cup goalscoring record held by Brazilian Ronaldo. In his fourth World Cup Klose would take his tally to fifteen goals, and at the same time would extend his own national record to seventy. The Lazio man’s strike – a typical close-range poacher’s effort at the far post – would come just 114 seconds after his arrival on the pitch, making him the second-fastest German substitute goalscorer in the history of the tournament.
In a curious quirk of fate Klose’s record-equalling goal would come against Ghana in Ronaldo’s home country Brazil, mirroring the Brazilian’s record-setting strike against the same opponent in Germany in 2006.
The first half would not be particularly memorable, and would be something of a sparring match. Germany would look the sharper of the two teams, but with Thomas Müller often finding himself on his own in the opposition penalty area all by himself most of the sharp thrusts down the flanks would come to nothing.
The second half by contrast would see a sudden flick of the switch, with the game bursting into life six minutes in. This time Müller would be the supplier, sending in a lovely floated ball for Götze – who would sneak between the two retreating central defenders to nod the ball onto his knee and into the net.
The goal would come as a welcome relief for the German supporters in the crowd, but this would last for long as not for the first time a floated cross into the box would see the Mannschaft’s defence in disarray. Shkodran Mustafi – on as a second-half substitute for Jérôme Boateng – would be caught flat-footed as André Ayew sneaked in between him and new centurion Mertesacker to give ‘keeper Manuel Neuer no chance.
Having acquired a second wind Ghana would continue to press, but their second goal would be little more than a gift. The usually efficient skipper Philipp Lahm would serve up a number of loose passes on what for him would be an uncharacteristically sub-par performance, but on sixty-three minutes it would be one loose ball too many. Within seconds, Ghanian captain and star striker Asamoah Gyan would have have the German goal at his mercy and would make no mistake.
Cue an inspired double change by the coach, and the introduction of two stalwarts who would help the men in white up another gear. Bastian Schweinsteiger would come on for the tiring Sami Khedira and deliver an impressive cameo, while the evergreen Klose – on for Götze – would show once again how valuable he has been to the German team in tournament competition with his sharp finish at the far post following Benedikt Höwedes‘ towering header. Höwedes had been hassled all match by the hard-running Ghanaians, yet would somehow summon the strength to climb above his marker to set up the perfect poacher’s finish for Klose.
The German striker would come come to pinching the game with a right-footed shot a minute from time, but Ghana would also a their chances to take the points themselves as the game ran to a frenetic finish. The final act would see some additional drama with Thomas Müller taking an accidental shoulder to the face in a final free-kick melée, leaving him looking like an extra from a horror film. Thankfully, there would be no great damage done.
Conclusion and Ratings
In a well-balanced contest Germany would be the more dangerous of the two teams, but it would be the Ghanaians who would have the better goal-scoring opportunities over the course of the ninety minutes. Time and again the German defence would be caught short by the wing play of the Africans, and questions still remain about Löw’s use of four central defenders rather than the likes of Kevin Großkreutz or Erik Durm.
Offensively, there was plenty of fast movement down the flanks, and on numerous occasions Özil and Götze would be able to get behind the opposition defence. The problem was just having a heavily marked Müller by himself as the sole target man. One also needs to give a great deal of credit to the Ghana defence, who were immense from start to finish. Physical without ever being desperate, they would put their bodies on the line in challenging for the ball at crucial moments – and would deny Germany a number of what on another day would have been excellent goal-scoring chances.
The tireless Müller would once again be among the positives, along with Özil who would also have a much better game in making a number of slippery runs down the flank and linking up a whole lot for effectively with those around him than had been the case against Portugal. Toni Kroos meanwhile would deliver another solid performance, maintaining his high levels of distribution and accuracy.
On the negative side Mustafi would show his inexperience at this level in failing to deal effectively with the cross that would lead to Ghana’s first goal, but Lahm’s error that led to the second would show that experience isn’t always the guarantor of success. It was a poor game for the Germany skipper, while many may question his value in midfield – coupled with the lack of a specialist right-back – this was surely just a blip.
The only cause for concern would be Sami Khedira, who appeared to reach his fitness threshold on what was admittedly a hot and sticky afternoon. Just to complicate matters and open the selection debate even more, Khedira’s replacement Bastian Schweinsteiger would introduce a new energy to the German game in the final quarter. Whether Schweinsteiger is actually fit enough to start is of course a crucial aspect of the ongoing discussion, but it will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the final group game against the United States in Recife on Thursday.
An excellent display from Neuer, who would be kept busy all game. With a couple of excellent saves and a comedy moment right near the end it would be the full entertainment pack from the German ‘keeper. Had no chance in stopping any of the Ghanaian goals.
The solid if unspectacular performance from the FC Bayern man, who was replaced by Shkodran Mustafi at half time with muscle problems. Kept things clean at the back during his forty-five minutes, but was not as adventurous as usual going forward.
Showed some good touches and clean challenges on his hundredth appearance, but like the rest of the back four would have a busy afternoon against pacy opposition. Could have done slightly better to prevent Ghana’s equaliser, but given the circumstances a pretty solid display.
An excellent game, particularly after recovering from his thigh strain. Hummels was arguably the best performer amongst the German back four. Would have little chance to play his usual forward forays, but do well on what was a busy day in testing conditions.
Would look tired at times and would be dubbed the “caravan man” by BBC co-commentator Mark Lawrenson – an account of his looking he was pulling a caravan – but would pull out all of the stops to put in a solid performance at left-back. Despite running himself into the ground Höwedes would somehow summon the strength to set up the equaliser for Miroslav Klose.
A generally poor display by the skipper, who would look uncharacteristically slack against opponents who would give him little time on the ball. His misplaced pass would hand Ghana the lead on a platter, and when he did make his way into the opposition box would be strangely short of ideas.
A strong enough start, but faded badly during the early part of the second half. Whether it was a the heat or his general fitness, Khedira’s performance would contrast markedly from his assured display against Portugal. Was replaced by Bastian Schweinsteiger after sixty-nine minutes.
Apart from a few long-range efforts there would be nothing particularly special from Kroos, but as in the tournament opener he would be the solid platform in midfield with his measured play and intelligent and almost metronomic distribution. Would cap off a satisfactory afternoon with a well placed corner that would result in Klose’s equaliser.
After a frustrating game against Portugal there will be a lot more from the mercurial midfielder in this match. Plenty of sharp runs down the left, let down only by the lack of resources in the box at point of delivery. Özil usually tires quickly in the latter part of games, but would last the entire ninety minutes in Fortaleza.
A mixed bag from Götze, who after an energetic and sprightly start would fade just a little as the Ghanaians upped the ante. Had a good enough first half and started the second with a well-taken tenth international goal, but would make way for Miroslav Klose with just over twenty minutes left on the clock.
No goals this time, but another decent all-round showing by Der Raumdeuter. Provided the perfect cross for Götze’s opener, and could very easily have got on the scoresheet were it not for some heroic defensive work from the opposition. Never one to shirk a challenge, Müller would finish the game looking like the archetypal bruised and bloodied hero after getting the sharp end of an Ghanaian shoulder.
Replaced Jérôme Boateng at the start of the second half, and was solid enough. However his performance will widely be judged on his being unable to deal with André Ayew and prevent Ghana’s equaliser. Unable to challenge for the ball, Mustafi would remain static as Ayew rose above him to head home.
Replaced Mario Götze with just over twenty minutes remaining, and would find the back of the net within two minutes of his arrival to snatch the crucial equaliser with a typical close-range strike. Klose would once again show that he is one of the World Cup’s great goalscorers, and with his fifteenth goal in his fourth and final tournament would finally mark his place in the record books.
Came on for the tiring Sami Khedira, and injected a sense of momentum and purpose into that what had been a sluggish German midfield. Even when not fully fit, Schweinsteiger remains an inspirational figure for this German team.
Neuer (3), Boateng (4), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (2), Höwedes (4), Lahm (5), Khedira (4), Kroos (4), Özil (4), Götze (3), Müller (3). Substitutes (until 75 mins): Mustafi (5), Klose (1), Schweinsteiger (2).
Neuer (2.5), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (3), Höwedes (3.5), Lahm (4.5), Khedira (5), Kroos (4), Özil (3.5), Götze (2.5), Müller (3.5). Substitutes: Mustafi (5).
Neuer (2), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (2.5), Höwedes (3), Lahm (5), Khedira (4.5), Kroos (3), Özil (2.5), Götze (3), Müller (2.5). Substitutes: Mustafi (4.5), Klose (1.5), Schweinsteiger (2).