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FIFA World Cup: Oezil's super strike takes Germany through to face England in 2nd round

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mesut_oezil.jpgGermany sealed their place in the second round of the FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 victory against Ghana in their final Group D match thanks to Mesut Oezil's stunning second half strike at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Oezil's brilliant long range shot around the hour mark meant that Germany won their group and face old rivals England in a mouth watering encounter in the last 16. Ghana could also celebrate as despite their defeat they became Africa's first side into the second round as they finished in second place ahead of Australia on goal difference following the Socceroos 2-1 win against Serbia in Nelspruit. The West African side had to wait nervously though as a Serbian equaliser would have meant they would have missed out and the Serbs would have clinched second place. But as news of the final whistle came through from Nelspruit and the Serbs failed to equalise, the Black Stars celebrated knowing they will be flying the flag for Africa when they take on the USA in the round of 16.

Going into this crucial encounter Ghana knew they would be the first and probably only African side at this edition of the FIFA World Cup to make it through to the second round if they could avoid defeat. Germany meanwhile needed to win to ensure they would take their customary position into the later stages of the tournament. The Europeans also knew that if they drew and Serbia and Australia failed to take three points they would squeeze through in second place - hardly the way anyone thought it would be following their 4-0 thrashing of the Socceroos in their tournament opener.

German coach Joachim Loew was forced to replace striker Miroslav Klose after he was suspended following his sending off against Serbia. Brazilian born Cacau was the new focal point of the attack having scored three goals in two friendly matches before the World Cup and was only narrowly edged out of the starting line up by veteran Klose in South Africa. He also came on and netted against Australia in their 4-0 win and started as the lone forward. Jerome Boateng's inclusion at left-back was the only other change to the side, as the new Manchester City signing took place of Holger Badstuber. That meant Jerome lined up against half-brother Kevin-Prince, who was named in Ghana's starting eleven. It was the first time that two brothers had ever faced each other in an international match and following Kevin Prince's tackle which prevented Michael Ballack from taking part in this tournament  and he was sure to be public enemy number 1 among German fans.

The West Africans made just one change to the side that drew with the Socceroos, recalling defender and man mountain John Mensah, who had recovered from injury, in place of young Lee Addy. Asamoah Gyan scored penalties in both their previous games but boss Milovan Rajevac would have known that his side could not rely on gifts from the spot and his forwards needed to be more assured in front of goal.

And Rajevac would have been pleased with his side's start as his Ghana showed plenty of early ambition. But it was Germany who got the first shot away, Cacau sending out an early warning shot Richard Kingson's way. The Europeans did not rush their build-up play, working their way forward with typical German efficiency, and one such effort saw Jonathan Mensah deflect a Lukas Podolski cross towards goal, forcing keeper Kingson into an excellent reflex save. The West African side were also troubling the German defence with their pace as they forged a fine opening of their own. Asamoah Gyan should have put his side in front after having the ball squared to him barely 10 yards out, but his effort was bravely blocked by a strong German defence.

Then either side of the 23rd minute both teams should have broken the deadlock. First Ghana pounced on Mertesacker dallying in defence and as Gyan bore down on goal with just Manuel Neuer to beat, but his normally assured touch let him down and the chance went begging. Seconds later it was Germany who should have scored when they quickly broke through the defences of the West African side but with Sami Khedira clear his shot could only find the legs of Kingson. It was frantic stuff but somehow unbelievably 30 minutes had flown by yet the match remained goalless. The big question was whether either of these sides were going to regret missing the glut of chances being offered?

As the first half drew to a close, Black Stars keeper Kingson pulled off another good stop to keep the Germans at bay. This time Kingson did well to get down to stop Bastian Schweinsteiger's lovely free-kick which drifted inches over Per Mertesacker's head as the defender charged in. So as the Ghanaians carried out their customary huddle at half time both sides knew as things stood they were going through. But if Serbia could break the deadlock against Australia at Nelspruit then the three time winners would need a goal otherwise they would be going home early.

And the Germans so very nearly fell behind 6 minutes after the interval after more wasteful finishing this time from Kwadwo Asamoah, released by Asamoah Gyan, as his scuffed shot when one-on-one with Neuer was well saved by the big German keeper.

Then on 60 minutes Mesut Oezil produced one of the goals of the tournament to relax German nerves and leave Ghana now sweating on their fate. The German playmaker cemented his reputation as one of the young stars of world football with a delightful left-foot shot from the edge of the area which even Kingson could do nothing about. As things stood with the game in Nelspruit still goalless, it was the Germans who were top with Ghana sitting precariously in second only ahead of the Serbs on goals scored. Ghana were not going to sit back and rely on the Socceroos keeping the Serbs at bay as they powered forward and almost immediately fashioned an equaliser but Prince Tagoe's header at the far post deflected off Jerome Boateng's leg for a corner.

Suddenly it was the remarkable events from Nelspruit which must have filtered through to Soccer City as the Socceroos had taken a 2-0 lead which all but killed of Serbia's hopes, but what of Australia? With 10 minutes remaining Germany were going through as winners and Ghana were ahead of the Socceroos on goal difference. Australia needed a two goal swing or for Ghana to score twice to seal a remarkable berth into the second round. The Germans looked to have weathered any further West African storm and if there was any team who were going to add to the scoring it looked to be the Europeans.

Events in Nelspruit took another unexpected turn when Serbia pulled a goal back, meaning a second goal for them in the remaining few minutes would mean they would take second place ahead of Ghana on goals scored. The drama continued as Serbia had a goal ruled out for offside and a solid penalty appeal turned down as it appeared that fate was conspiring to send Ghana through. The game ended tamely in Soccer City and it was a case of the Ghana fans waiting for the final whistle to come through from Nelspruit and as the Socceroos held on for victory, the jubilant players from the Black Stars joined the Germans into the second round.

The Teams:

Ghana: Kingson (GK), Pantsil, Jonathan Mensah, John Mensah, Sarpei, Annan, Prince Boateng, Ayew (Adiya, 90+2) Tagoe (,Muntari, 64) Asamoah, Gyan (Amoah, 81)

Germany: Neuer (GK), Lahm, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Boateng (Jansen, 72) , Mueller (Trochowski, 68), Khedira, Schweinsteiger (Kroos, 81), Podolski, Oezil, Cacau.

Scoreline: Germany 1 Ghana 0 (Oezil 60')

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Australia 2-1 Serbia Match Report

File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel

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