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Three quick thoughts on Germany-Ghana (World Cup Group D)

Three quick thoughts on Germany's 1-0 win over Ghana in Group D:

1. Finishing top of this group is a mixed blessing. With no disrespect intended to the U.S., who fully deserved to top Group C after today's heroics, the top team in this group faces a tougher route to the later stages of the competition. England awaits in the Round of 16 and more worryingly, the winner of Argentina-Mexico in the quarter-final ­ with possibly Spain (if it wins its group) in the semifinal. That means Germany will face old enemy England on Sunday, with Franz Beckenbauer's recent critique of its opponent as "a kick-and-rush" side still fresh in the memory. Despite losing tonight, Ghana's second-place finish ensures a tough game against U.S. next up and then Uruguay or South Korea, a far less worrying prospect, in the quarterfinals. That half of the draw is the most open in the tournament, and the winner of the U.S.-Ghana tie will fancy a place in the semifinals.

2. At least the African dream is still alive. After the poor showings from Nigeria and Cameroon, and late but futile rallies from South Africa and Algeria, Ghana will be the sole survivor left from the host continent, unless Ivory Coast can somehow overcome a nine-goal goal difference with Portugal on Friday. It¹s great news for the tournament that there is still an African team left, and no surprise that Ghana, African Cup of Nations finalists last January, is that last team standing. But it may not have had to rely on a favor from Australia if it had a prolific goal-scorer: Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah both missed good opportunities to beat German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, while Prince Tagoe and Kevin-Prince Boateng also snatched at half-chances. Ghana¹s two goals so far in South Africa have both come from the penalty-spot. It may need something special from open play to break down the U.S. defense.

3. International soccer is changing. This game made history as the first World Cup finals match in which two brothers, the Boatengs, faced each other on different sides. Much was made of the enmity between the pair before the game, after Jerome (Germany) criticized his half-brother Kevin-Prince (Ghana) for the FA Cup final foul that ruled Germany captain Michael Ballack out of the tournament. "I don¹t want any more contact with him, what he does really doesn¹t interest me any more," Jerome was quoted as telling Sport Bild. Four other starters ­Lukas Podolski (Poland), Mesut Ozil (Turkey), Sami Khedira (Tunisia) and Cacau (Brazil) ­ in Germany's side could have represented other nations. Ozil, the match-winner, has claimed his flair comes from his Turkish influence, but don't think that all this team's offensive strength is down to its multi-cultural influence: second striker, Thomas Muller, part of the move for the goal, was born in Weilhelm and has been at Bayern Munich since he was 11.

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