Some random observations after the second group fixtures:
Germany 0-1 Serbia: This is ugly game, largely because of the referee‘s itchy trigger finger. Lots of yellow cards issued, few appear to be deserved. The referee seemingly books any player, no matter how small the contact and regardless of intent. Miroslav Klose got tossed on a second yellow card in just the 36th minute. Again, the foul was minor and undeserving of a card. The Serbs immediately took advantage on a good cross to the far post and a header back to the middle of the box where Milan Jovanovic was all alone and fired it past the goalie. The Germans were in a funk with the man disadvantage, but got a couple of excellent opportunities in first half stoppage time on Sami Khedira’s blast off the crossbar and Thomas Muller’s follow-up bicycle kick that was stopped by a Serbian defender at the goal line. That and the Serbian goal were the only real excitement of the first half, particularly with the referee booking everyone in sight. The Germans came out really aggressive in the second half, controlling the ball so well, it was hard to believe that they were a man down. They created several excellent scoring opportunities, but Lukas Podolski was destined to be the goat after shooting wide all day and failing on a weak penalty kick. Germany had trouble all day putting shots on goal, after peppering the Australian goalie continually in their first fixture. Serbia did a little better putting shots on goal, but played very defensively after their goal and only managed a few opportunities on the counterattack. The referee apparently got a message not to issue so many yellow cards as worse fouls in the second half did not get booked. Even before Klose got thrown out, the Germans did not look like the same team that dominated Australia and was the best team in the first fixtures. A tie or loss in their third fixture against Ghana would likely result in the Germans unthinkably being eliminated at the group stage. They will play that game without Klose, who will serve a suspension after the two yellow cards in this match. Klose is one of the best finishers in German history and without him, nobody else could put a good shot on goal. Someone else will have to step up against Ghana. Serbia is in a good position to advance as they face the weak Socceroos in their last group fixture.
Ghana 1-1 Australia: After failing to take advantage of their few opportunities against Germany, the Aussies struck first early when Ghanian goalie Richard Kingson mishandled a short hop on a direct kick leading to an easy goal by Brett Holman. Seems like there has been more goalie error in this Cup than usual. Ghana got a penalty kick because of a handball at the goal line by Harry Kewell, who also got tossed. The red card was excessive as Kewell was not attempting to use his arm to block the shot, but simply had no time to react to the shot. Asamoah Gyan easily converted the penalty kick, but it was some brilliant dribbling by Andre Ayew that brought the sequence about as he beat two defenders deep on the right wing before making the cross that led to the shot and handball. With the man advantage, the Black Stars pushed relentlessly and controlled the midfield, but they lacked vision and creativity in the final third and couldn’t penetrate the Aussie defense for good shots. Ghana was forced to resort largely to long shots and its clear that they miss Michael Essien‘s ability to control the midfield. Their youth and inexperience in the back may get exploited by Germany in the next fixture. Good to see Aussie coach Pym Verbeek go for it toward the end despite the man disadvantage by bringing in two strikers at the expense of his midfield even if he didn’t get the hoped for result. Ghana can advance with a win or tie against the Germans, but will need a better defensive effort even against a German attack that will be without their top scorer and need to find someone who can create better shots. The Socceroos remote chance at advancement depends on a win over Serbia and a German loss to Ghana, but you have to like how they handled the loss of Kewell and played a solid defensive effort that earned them a point in this fixture.