BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

If second game draws are dispiriting then defeat – heavy defeat at that – in the opening game of the World Cup is a sizeable bubble bursting which it is hard to recover from. Australia’s 4-0 defeat was that bubble burst and not just in the size of the defeat but the nature of it. The Australians were easily pushed aside when the Germans found a single point and pressed it hard.

Ghana got a steady start beating the Serbs 1-0 playing the Europeans at their own tight, compact defensive game and getting the best of what seems to be the Serbian tradition of leaping to handle the ball for little or no reason. Ghana saw Germany lose to Serbia and see a opportunity to – should they repeat the result the Europeans got over the Australians – set themselves in a position to be able to win or draw to top the group.

Kevin-Prince Boateng seems to have added an extra dimension for Ghana. A German product he played European football at every level before jumping ship to his father’s country and as such has the discipline to play a role that sees him float from midfield to the forward line. Kevin-Price will face his brother in Jerome of Germany in the next game although the two don’t talk since the FA Cup final when the Ghana player injured Michael Ballack with a rustic tackle.

Anthony Annan is pulled up for a tackle on Carl Valeri and the long range free kick is hit on target by Mark Bresciano if not with power but Richard Kingston lets the ball bounce off his chest and Brett Holman is first to the rebound that should not have rebounded and is unopposed to pop the ball into the net.

Now steady the Australians are a more composed outfit with the goal and the lead but still they leave gaps behind the full backs as those players track in field following wingers, perhaps trying to make up for the lack of pace of central pair Craig Moore and Lucas Neill. André Ayew hits a shot wide from long range just as Jonathan Mensah goes past him. Composure would bring rewards for the Africans but the paths to goal they have are snuffed out.

Ghana get a break through when some good wing play within the box by André Ayew results in a low cross which begs for a finish and is struck at goal by Jonathan Mensah – it is going in – but saved on the line by Harry Kewell. Kewell is sent off and shamed himself by refusing to go despite the obvious offence – the ball not only hits his arm on the line but runs down it and his arm is by no means tucked into his side – which only delays Asamoah Gyan getting his second penalty of the World Cup.

Gyan goes close two minutes later dragging the ball past Mark Schwarzer’s right hand posts and it seems that the Australians have three quarters of a game to defend well with ten men or go out.

Kewell’s red card no doubt ends his World Cup and brings down the curtain on a career which has been so much less than it promised to be. In his younger days Kewell – then with Leeds United – was put forward as a potential great but with the West Yorkshire club he often did well when it was not needed. When Leeds failed to win the Champions League place they needed where was Kewell? In the first half in Istanbul when Liverpool were 3-0 down to AC Milan where was Kewell? With Mark Viduka in a 3-1 friendly win against England some years ago Kewell looked masterful but – as Australia struggle in the World Cup – where is Kewell? He is arguing with the Referee that he should not have been sent off for catching the ball on the line.

Ghana seen set to be able to grind out a victory in this game needing not to attack so much as to pick off hole that will eventually appear in the Australians defence. They pick at the defence with Boateng having the best of those chances with Schwarzer making a superb low save to his right to stop Ghana going in at half time with a lead.

The second half promises a battle between Gyan and Schwarzer with the African hammering low shot that the Aussie saves well. Kwadwo Asamoah decides to join in and it seems clear that Ghana seem to have been told to shoot on sight which – probably – is the worst tactic they could have dreamed up the path to goal being in playing around the Australians and making chances that favour the striker rather than trying to test Schwarzer with long range efforts that favour him.

Gyan hits another one that Schwarzer drops his body onto, Boateng hits one wide from forty yards away. The excitement of Ghana hunting the win with increasingly outrageous shooting is good for neutral viewers but frustrating for the Africans who start to unbalance pushing too far forward and leaving room for Scott Chipperfield to rise well but head over with his first touch after coming off the bench. It is a bad miss.

By seventy minutes Ghana seem to have run out of ideas. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie arrived from the bench but carried on trying to ping shots in from range and perhaps it is that tiredness with long range efforts that sees Boateng slide a ball to Gyan who hits just wide from the left of the penalty spot.

Kingston makes a low save from Josh Kennedy who also arrived from the bench and with is threat in the air makes one wonder why Kewell was deployed as target man in this game and Tim Cahill was in the last. Kennedy has provided problems for the defence which it seemed that Australia were incapable of poising.

Australia are back in a game which they never looked like they could get into – the opening ten minutes aside – and look the team more likely to score. Dutch coach of Australia Pim Verbeek could take the credit for that – he has taken all the flank during the week – but one has to wonder why he has excluded the obviously dangerous and physically strong Kennedy for one and a half games.

Sulley Muntari gets onto the field – the Inter player is not favoured in his homeland – and starts to try play in a more patient way. He swings a free kick to Jonathan Mensah who rises to head the ball but clears the Australian crossbar. Owusu-Abeyie gets a chance to recycle a corner but uses it to sting Schwarzer’s palms again while Muntari wastes another corner.

The Australians press for victory full heartedly but the point they secure will ensure that they are in with a chance of progressing should they beat Serbia – no easy task – while Ghana will play Germany with the winners in the second round and a draw favouring the Europeans.

This is a good day for Australia and a missed opportunity for Ghana who could have secured a place in the next round for the want of the composure in the middle third.

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