If the old cliché goes that German soccer sides are renowned for their discipline, there was very little of it on show in yesterday’s 2-2 tie with Ghana. Having thrashed hapless Portugal 4-0 in their opening game, few would have expected Die Mannschaft to have made quick work of Ghana and end their hopes of progressing towards the last the World Cup knockout phase. Perhaps still smarting after their defeat against the U.S. earlier in the week, Asamoah Gyan and his stars had different plans.
Before kick-off, a lot had been made in the media of Germany’s ability to open strong in their first World Cup group match but then struggle in their second—a so-called ‘Second Match Syndrome.’ Of course there is some truth to this. The record books show that in their last five World Cup campaigns the Germans have emerged victorious just once—a 1-0 win against Poland when they were the tournament’s hosts in 2006.
But when you consider that the late 90s and early 2000s were a transition period for the Germans and that their second game opponents have been Spain, Yugoslavia, Republic of Ireland, and Serbia it’s fairly clear that they’ve not always been presented with easy picks. In addition, it’s worth noting that the last time before 1994 the Germans had failed to win their second game was in 1966 (a goalless tie with Argentina). Their last second-game loss was 1958. A second-game syndrome? Ghana certainly didn’t have their heads buried in the history books.
After a fairly tame opening first-half, it was Bayern Munich’s attacking midfielder Mario Götze who gave Germany the lead, somewhat fortuitously heading Thomas Muller’s ball off his knee past Ghana’s Fatau Dauda. For any coach that has spent hours teaching young kids how to head a ball it made for some painful viewing, but for Götze and the Germans it didn’t matter, they were coasting and could sense the second round. However, Ghana’s Andre Ayew, who came within minutes to breaking American hearts earlier this week, replied almost instantly for the Black Stars, heading home a beautifully timed cross past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Game on.
With the game tied the Germans appeared shell-shocked and struggled with the physicality of the Ghanaians. Sulley Muntari bullied the German midfield, while Ayew and Gyan continued to torment Germany’s defense. And it was the captain who gave them a precious lead in the 63rd minute. A surprisingly slack pass from German captain Philipp Lahm was picked off by the combative Muntari who teed up Gyan for one of his trademark finishes. The Ghanaians were a goal up and even came close to finding a third through Jordan Ayew as Germany’s defense continued to struggle. And then came old reliable.
Facing a surprising defeat, German coach Joachim Löw introduced more experience by bringing on midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and striker Miroslav Klose to rescue a point. Within 60 seconds of his introduction, Klose duly obliged. With 20 minutes remaining Ghana failed to deal with a German corner, which Benedikt Howedes headed towards goal only for the veteran Klose to snatch his moment of glory and earn his 15th all-time World Cup goal, jumping ahead of his compatriot Gerd Müller and tying with Brazil’s Ronaldo. The equalizer certainly brought the Germans back to life and had it not been for an impeccably timed tackle by John Boye, Muller would have given Die Mannschaft a perhaps undeserving victory. At two goals a-piece, however, both sides could leave the field largely satisfied—and yet still ruing some missed chances.
For the United States, who plays Portugal today, the result wasn’t as bad as a German defeat. However, not since 1938 have the Germans failed to progress beyond the first phase. What’s more in the modern group format, they have always qualified. Unless they defeat Portugal, facing a German side in need of a victory in their final group game should be daunting prospect for the U.S. When it comes to a second chance to reach the second round, history shows that the Germans never disappoint.
What we learned about … Germany: After not even breaking a sweat in their 4-0 win against Portugal, yesterday’s performance against Ghana was tortuous for Löw’s side. They struggled in defense as Höwedes and Per Mertesacker put on an entirely unconvincing 90 minutes. But most concerning of all should be in midfield where Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira and Arsenal’s Mesut Özil were extremely poor. Khedira is clearly still struggling for fitness and Özil, who was yet again harangued by his own fans, is finding solid performances hard to come by. The latter is still likely to start the game against the United States, but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Schweinsteiger start ahead of Khedira.
What we learned about … Ghana: A massive improvement on their game against the United States earlier in the week. Gyan and Ayew will give any center-back paring trouble, but they really made life miserable for the Germans. In defense Boye put in a first-class performance and is already – rightfully – being recognized as one of the World Cup’s star performers. But it’s hard to see how the Black Stars would have put in such a fantastic performance yesterday without Muntari dominating the midfield. Unfortunately his second yellow card of the tournament will leave him suspended for their game against Portugal. After Muntari’s impressive showing in Brazil, his absence will give coach Kwesi Appiah a lot to think over.
Ewan Watt writes extensively on state and national issues in the US, covering the 2012 presidential election for both print and online publications. He is providing commentary for the Daily Caller on a regular basis throughout the World Cup. He writes strictly in a personal capacity. You can follow him on Twitter at @ewancwatt