Along with Group G, a “group of death”. Germany will be favourites, but recall that Australia almost upset eventual champions Italy at Germany 2006. Ghana also reached the last 16 in 2006, while Serbia, with a strong record in 2009, could be the dark horse at South Africa 2010.
Serbia will be appearing in the World Cup as an independent nation for the first time. However, as Yugoslavia, they have plenty of previous World Cup experience.
The Serbians topped their qualifying group ahead of France and enjoyed a good 2009, recording nine wins, two losses and one draw. One of those victories came in South Africa when the White Eagles beat the World Cup hosts 3-1.
Serbia’s players can be found in the major European leagues, including England, Spain, Italy, and Germany, which means many of them are battle-hardened from playing in continental club competitions.
Captain Dejan Stankovic has been playing international football for over a decade – he made his debut in April 1998 against South Korea, scoring two goals in a 3-1 win – and he brings an experienced and calm presence to the midfield. Behind him, Manchester United’s highly-rated Nemanja Vidic takes care of the central defence.
Germany were very impressive in qualifying for South Africa, winning eight and drawing two of their 10 matches whilst netting 26 goals and conceding only five. During 2009, Germany won seven matches, lost only one and drew three times.
The Germans have a very experienced spine to their team with a number of players boasting well in excess of 50 caps in defence, midfield, and attack. Yet, they are not an old team and feature many players in their early-to-mid twenties.
They also have the priceless asset of proven goal scorers in Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, who is third on the all-time list of highest goal scorers for Germany. Captain Michael Ballack provides them with a world class playmaker in the midfielder.
Germany’s historical consistency and their results in major tournaments during the 2000s – runner-up at the 2002 World Cup, third in the 2006 World Cup, and runner-up at Euro 2008 – suggests they will again be among the potential winners in South Africa.
Australia has appeared in the World Cup twice previously, in 2006 and 1974. In Germany, in 2006, it took a last minute penalty in extra time for eventual champions Italy to defeat the Socceroos in the round of 16.
Previously having qualified from the Oceania Football Confederation, Australia was part of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup since it had joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006. During qualifying, the Australians showed off a stubborn defence, conceding only one goal, as they topped their group with six wins and two draws in eight matches.
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer went seven matches without conceding a goal in qualifying, but scoring at the other end of the field came primarily from the midfielders and not the strikers. Australia managed 12 goals in their eight qualifiers, with Brett Emerton and Tim Cahill leading the way.
Australia are coached by Pim Verbeek, a man with experience of the past two World Cup finals. He was Guus Hiddink’s assistant when South Korea reached the semi-finals of the 2002 event and then, still with South Korea, he assisted Dick Advocaat at the 2006 tournament.
Verbeek took over as coach of South Korea from Advocaat, but resigned in July 2007. In December of the same year, he became Australia’s coach.
Ghana, known as the Black Stars, qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in 2006. Their record on the African continent is far more impressive. They have won the African Cup of Nations four times, but the last of those victories was in 1982. They have also finished as runners-up four times: in 1968, 1970, and 1992 and 2010.
Ghana’s footballing fortunes appear to be on the up, maybe heading for the glorious heights of the country’s past, if one considers that Ghana became the first ever African winner of the Fifa under-20 World Cup in October 2009 when the Black Satellites beat Brazil in the final. They also finished as runners-up in the African Cup of Nations 2010.
The strength of Ghana’s senior national team is its midfield, which includes Chelsea’s Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari of Inter Milan and Stephen Appiah of Bologna.
Despite the side’s individual quality, 2009, after a good start during which they won six and draw one match, finished on a downer when the Black Stars lost three matches in succession before closing the year with a draw. They will need to raise their level at South Africa 2010.
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