Germany sealed progress to the knockout stages as group winners, deposing Ghana at the summit of Group D with Mesut Ozil’s strike from the edge of the area. Ghana qualify despite their loss, thanks to Australia’s defeat of Serbia, and will face USA in the round of 16.
This was a far more open game than the scoreline suggested and the watching England camp will have taken note of how easily and regularly Ghana created chances, registering eight shots on target. Asamoah Gyan had scored both of Ghana’s goals in this World Cup but was profligate in the extreme during a first half in which Ghana were the better side.
In the second half Germany came out to attack, with Serbia and Australia goalless but a potential Serbian winner sending the Germans home. They scored the game’s only goal on the hour, Mesut Ozil finding himself in acres of space at the edge of the area. Germany’s playmaker, a peripheral figure for much of the game, had time for a touch to set himself before smashing a shot into the top corner.
Ghana continued to press but Germany’s defence of their lead was resolute. Prince Tagoe’s header was blocked by Bastian Schweinsteiger before Philip Lahm did a similar job on Andre Ayew’s shot.
Meanwhile at the Mbobela Stadium in Nelspruit Australia paid the price for their opening 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Germany, denied a place in the second round on goal difference. Their performances have improved through the group stage but were not able to score enough goals to overtake Ghana.
After a tense, goalless first half in which Serbia created a few chances and even had a goal disallowed for offside, Tim Cahill broke the deadlock. The Everton midfielder has the remarkable habit of out-jumping the Premier League’s biggest centrebacks and he did so again here, stealing a yard on his marker and rising highest to nod home.
Australia were much the better side in the second half and they doubled their lead when Brett Holman picked up the ball on a counterattack and rifled a low shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
With Germany leading Ghana 1-0 Australia knew a further two-goal swing would be enough to send them through, but their hopes were dashed when Marko Pantelic reacted quickest to Mark Schwarzer’s error in the 84th minute.