Group D Preview: Group of Depth

German Football
By German Football June 9, 2010 21:59

Group D Preview: Group of Depth

Germany may have the pedigree of three-times World Cup winners, but Joachim Loew’s side will not have an easy ride against Australia, Ghana and Serbia in Group D.

The Germans dominated their qualifying group on the road to South Africa, humbling Russia home and away, but each of their group rivals also finished top of their qualifying groups.

Having reached the final of Euro 2008, Germany have largely been untested since losing to Spain in the final, but have a balance of promising talent and seasoned veterans even without injured captain Michael Ballack.

Germany tend to cope well with the pressure of the knock-out stages and have won all four penalty shoot-outs they faced at previous World Cups.

But Loew is taking nothing for granted and his side, captained in Ballack’s absence by defender Philipp Lahm, will as always be fully prepared.

“I wouldn’t say we were too lucky with the draw,” said Loew, whose side face Australia in their opening game on June 13 in Durban.

“It’s not going to be an easy group, but it’s certainly not beyond us.

“Serbia were fantastic in qualifying and they have some extremely good players, likewise we will have to be careful against Australia.

“Ghana are going to very difficult to play against due to their physical strength.”

Having been the only African side to reach the knock-out rounds of the last World Cup on their tournament debut, Ghana are arguably Germany’s biggest rivals in the group, although they are seriously weakened by the absence of midfield powerhouse Michael Essien.

Under Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac, the Black Stars easily navigated the final round of African qualification.

But the problems have piled up since then — with Essien ruled out of the entire tournament, Rajevac is anxiously waiting to see if the highly rated Sulley Muntari will recover from a thigh injury in time to face Serbia on Sunday.

Much could rest on the experienced shoulders of Stephen Appiah in an otherwise exceptionally young squad, which was overwhelmed in a 4-1 defeat by Holland.

Rajevac said he had the utmost respect for Germany, but still believes his team can also qualify from the group.

“Germany are a quality team, Serbia too, but I’m convinced we can match them,” said Rajevac.

“For me, Germany are the best team in Europe. I’m confident we can make it into the second round.”

Australia will be looking to build on their impressive performance from four years ago, but have lost the ability to surprise.

In Germany, Australia finished second in their group behind Brazil and ahead of Croatia and Japan.

It took a penalty deep into injury-time for Italy to beat Guus Hiddink’s side in the last 16 on their way to winning the final.

Now under Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, Australia have the chance to claim a major scalp in their opening game against Germany.

“You have to say Germany are the favourites to win the group,” said Verbeek.

“They’re extremely strong, very experienced and one of the best sides in the world.

“Nonetheless, we’ll be doing everything we can to reach the next round. We did well in 2006, but now we need to concentrate on 2010.

“The players are four years older now and so they have four years more experience.”

The group’s dark horses are Serbia, who beat France to pole position in their qualifying pool and thrashed Romania 5-0 to reach the finals.

They have defensive quality in Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United and a midfield star in Dejan Stankovic, fresh from winning the Champions League with Inter Milan, and will not be easy to beat.

“It’s going to be a really interesting group because each team has a very different playing style,” said Serbia coach Radomir Antic.

“My team is very young, physically and technically strong and without a doubt the best Serbian team there has ever been.”

Favourites – Germany

Fancied – Australia and Ghana

Underdogs – Serbia

German Football
By German Football June 9, 2010 21:59
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