Some random observations after the third group fixtures:
Australia 2-1 Serbia: This was an up-tempo game with both teams pushing aggressively up field and taking shots from everywhere. Milos Krasic got loose on a long ball behind the Aussie defense and with the goalie way out to challenge him, he pushed the ball around the goalie and fired a shot over the near post. Serbia should have been on the board there and Krasic would have have been better served controlling the ball after beating the goalie on the dribble as he would have had all kinds of time to deliver a more balanced shot at an open goal. Mark Schwarzer made a brilliant save on Branislav Ivanovic’s point blank half-volley from just a few yards out. Lots of excitement in the first half, but it was all near misses and good saves. The second half found the Aussies with renewed energy and they started consistently applying pressure in the final third. Socceroo star Tim Cahill finally put a header past the goalie to put Australia in the lead. Cahill is one of the best in the world at scoring with his head and his header was perfectly placed. Minutes later, Brett Holman unleashed one from 30 yards out to the bottom left of the goal. The Serbian goalie looked like he got a late jump on his dive and he clearly was not expecting a shot from that distance. With the two-goal lead, the Aussies brought on another striker for a defender obviously realizing that their only hope for advancement was to score more to obtain a tiebreaker advantage. After the second goal, the Serbians woke up and realized they were about to be drummed out of the Cup and played with some renewed vigor. Schwarzer could not control the short hop on a long shot and Marko Pantelic pounced on the rebound for the goal. The Serbs continued swarming on offense and fired more shots in the last ten minutes than they had for the prior 80. Good no call by the referee on a handball in his own box by Cahill on a corner. There clearly was no intent on Cahill’s part as the ball went off a Serbian behind him and hit the back of his arm. Despite the flurry at the end, Serbia could not find the evener. Despite the win, the Socceroos lost the tiebreaker and did not advance. If the Serbs had merely managed a tie, they would have advanced. With the loss, the team most expected to advance out of the group with Germany ends up in last place in the group.
Ghana 0-1 Germany: The Germans entered the game in the unfamiliar position of likely needing to win to advance (that is until Serbia managed to lose to the Aussies playing simultaneously). However, early on, Germany played cautiously looking for the counterattack while Ghana pushed its attack. Ten minutes in, Black Stars goalie Richard Kingson was forced to make a good save when his own defender John Mensah poorly cleared a Lukas Podolski cross nearly into the goal. Both teams began really working the flanks for good opportunities. Germany shook off its early tentativeness and the game became a very entertaining back and forth with both teams playing up-tempo and switching up the attack side-to-side well. German forward Mesut Ozil broke in alone at the goalie, but Kingson made a great one-on-one save on the shot as he came out to challenge Ozil. On a corner at the other end, Gyan flicked a header toward the back post, but Philipp Lahm was stationed there to deny it. Both teams impressed in the first half and both are fortunate not to have given up a goal. 15 minutes into the second half, Ozil made up for his earlier failure by rocketing a 25-yard shot into the upper left corner of the goal. The last minutes of the game were played with a lack of urgency by both teams as they surely realized both would be advancing because of what was going on in the Serbia-Australia game. Refreshing to see a game with both teams playing aggressively for most of the game and both squads deservedly advanced out of the group. Nonetheless, given how many great opportunities each team had, both should be concerned about their inability to finish. The Black Stars in particular only scored two goals in their three group games and both were on penalty kicks. The Germans will be glad to get Miroslav Klose back as no one stepped up to replace his goal scoring after he got red-carded in their game against Serbia.