'New Germany' shows old resilience in victory over Ghana
The youngest and most multi-cultural squad ever? Check*. Playing a short-passing game with an army of tricky midgets in midfield? Check. Losing their first group game since 1986? Check. Missing a penalty? Check.
There was only one thing left to do if
This, alas, they couldn't quite do. In fact, the 1-0 win over Ghana saw plenty of "New Germany" (very fast -- at times much too fast attacking -- coupled with defensive frailty) but quite a bit of the tried and tested stuff, too: a healthy dose of classic resilience and the amazing knack to get a result when it really matters.
Löw will be mightily relieved that he won't be the first Germany coach to come home before the first round of matches is over. One unprecedented event did come to pass in Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium, however:
Germany wasn't in the mood for a patient game. The Germans moved the ball quickly through the excellent Schweinsteiger to Brazilian-born striker
For all its eye-pleasing passing and possession, Germany lacked finesse in the final third, though. The team could not really convert its dominance into clear-cut chances. Cacau is not a natural attacker to lead the line on his own. Against the physically strong Ghanaians, he was often crowded out.
Ghana posed an incessant threat on the counter. A more composed striker than
Before the match, parallels were drawn with Euro 2008, when Germany lost its second game against a team from the Balkans (Croatia, 2-1) and needed to win its final group match (against Austria) to progress. Back then,
Löw made a point of singling out Neuer for his heroics: "He made two or three great stops, it was a big game from him," said the 50-year-old. The Schalke goalkeeper will surely have to pull off a few more saves like that if Germany is to progress any further.
Ghana was ultimately a test well passed, all things considered.
England in Bloemfontein on Sunday will be a different of kettle of fish entirely.
"They're definitely stronger than Ghana but if we bring our quality to bear on the pitch as we did tonight, we will win that match too", said Özil, with a touch of youthful bravado.
Chances are the New Germany will have to be newer still against Capello's team: Schweinsteiger, the linchpin of the side, picked up a ham-string injury and is only rated "fifty-fifty" to feature by Germany's medical staff. There are no obvious replacements in the squad, with the possible exception of
There's a first time for everything, of course, yet even the New Germans won't be willing to break with one particular, astonishing tradition: Every time they've lost a group game in the World Cup before, they've made it at least to the final.