Much debate prior to the beginning of the tournament centered on Joachim Low’s decision to have just one natural striking option in his final 23-man squad, in the shape of 35-year-old Miroslav Klose. The decision to dispense with the services of Hoffenheim striker Kevin Volland, who netted 11 goals during the Bundesliga season, appeared to be a strange one but the decision-making process seemed clear after Monday’s opener against Portugal. During the 4-0 destruction of a lacklustre Portuguese side, Thomas Muller operated as a lone striker but adopted the false nine role – which was used to such great effect by Spain in recent years. Although he doesn’t operate as a striker on a regular basis for Bayern Munich, the 24-year-old showed no sign of inexperience in the position as he notched a clinical hat-trick. His performance even prompted faint praise from legendary forward Diego Maradona who said “He has no muscles, but he tore them apart.” This impressive feat means that his World Cup goal tally now stands at eight, following a golden-boot winning total of five in the 2010 edition in South Africa. It is easy to see why Low opted for him as he has all of the attributes to be a success in this role with strength, tactical awareness and most importantly, a poacher’s instinct. Although Muller wasn’t provided with clear goalscoring chances, he proved to be a useful figure with neat hold-up play and the provision of an assist for Mario Gotze. Given his remarkable talent, it is clear to see why some are saying that he can emulate his namesake Gerd.
Following their impressive performance at the last World Cup, many tipped Ghana to be dark horses during this campaign. Controversy reigned supreme over their exit in 2010, after they were denied a crucial goal by the intervention of Luis Suarez, who produced his very own ‘hand of god’ moment. Asamoah Gyan would miss the spot kick and this proved to be the nature of their defeat, as Uruguay went through to the semi-final via a penalty shootout. Despite the optimism surrounding them, Akwasi Appiah’s side lost 2-1 to USA, with John Brooks sealing their defeat with a late winner. This fixture was an accurate indication of the major weakness, which troubles the squad and threatens any possible challenge this time around. During the 90 minutes, the Black Stars produced 21 shots on goal but just three (14.29 per cent) of them managed to hit the target. In stark contrast to the attacking failures of the Ghanians, the Americans notched exactly 50 oer cent of their shots on target. They managed to illustrate a better strike rate during this game though as ten of their 19 shots (52.63 per cent) managed to hit the target. Appiah possesses a raft of attacking talent at his disposal including Gyan, brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew, and the enigmatic figure of Kevin-Prince Boateng so it is clear to see why more is expected of Appiah’s side.
An interesting sub-plot to this fixture lies in the form of the head-to-head between half-brothers Jerome (representing Germany) and Kevin-Prince, who pulls on the White shirt of Ghana. The pair have experience of meeting on the biggest tournament in the international football calendar before though, as they faced each other four years ago during the group stages in South Africa. This moment proved to be a historic one as it was the first time that two male siblings played on opposite sides in the World Cup. Jerome, who is two years younger than Kevin-Prince, would prove to have the last laugh though as Mesut Ozil’s strike secured victory. Prior to the game, the pair have severed all contact which the former Manchester City defender describes as “strange but necessary”. Despite Jerome stressing that he is fully focused on the task ahead, the older sibling has done his best to stir the melting pot. Opinionated Kevin-Prince claims that Joachim Low’s team lack leadership and was quoted as saying, “In really tight matches for Germany there was never anyone who stepped up to take charge. It’s a fundamental truth. “I see an outstanding team but whenever something is at stake they do not make the final step. They just lack this one guy.” Time will tell as to whether this opinion holds any truth but both men will be equally happy as bragging rights were shared in Fortaleza.
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