By DAN KARELL
Germany can take another step forward to securing a way out of the so-called “Group of Death” when they take on the Black Stars of Ghana on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. ESPN).
Die Mannschaft couldn’t have asked for a better start to the World Cup in their opening 4-0 victory against Portugal, but they’ll face a difficult test in Ghana, who are fighting for their World Cup lives. One thing is for sure though, and it’s that Germany’s offense is clicking on all cylinders.
Thomas Müller was the star of the show last Monday as he scored a hat-trick in his “false No. 9” role, combining very well with Mario Götze, Sami Khedira, and Toni Kroos to create chances. Germany do have a worry however. Centerback Mats Hummels suffered a thigh injury and is still a doubt to return, possibly forcing Germany coach Joachim Löw to pick inexperienced defenders Matias Ginter or Shkodran Mustafi in the starting XI.
For Ghana, expect Kevin-Prince Boateng and Michael Essien to start, as they were surprisingly left out of the squad. The match against Germany represents a big moment for the Berlin-born Boateng, who will take on his brother Jerome for the second time in their career.
Here are some more notes on today’s World Cup slate:
ARGENTINA vs. IRAN
When Lionel Messi talks, everyone listens.
Messi was outspoken on Argentina’s tactics following last Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Argentina switched from a five-man back line to a 4-3-3 formation at halftime, and produced a quality second 45 minutes of soccer to earn the win.
Heading into Argentina’s second match of the World Cup against Iran (12 p.m. ESPN), Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella is ready to go back to the 4-3-3 formation from the start, placing Sergio Aguero to Messi’s right and Angel Di Maria on the left of the front trio. It’s a formation that will certainly cause Iran trouble.
Team Melli surprised viewers last Monday with a hard-fought scoreless draw against Nigeria, with big games from holding midfielders Andranik Teymourian and Javad Nekounam. Those two will have to be on their game though to keep Messi, Di Maria, and Aguero from piercing their inexperienced back line.
NIGERIA vs. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
If Bosnia and Herzegovina could take anything from their World Cup opener, it’s that they made Argentina sweat for most of the match and looked dangerous for stretches of the game.
Now heading into their second game against Nigeria (6 p.m. ESPN), Bosnia will hope to bounce back from the defeat. With Edin Dzeko, Vedad Ibisevic, and Miralem Pjanic, Bosnia and Herzegovina certainly have the capabilities to hit the target going forward, but it will be interesting to see how Sead Kolasinac overcomes mentally his early own-goal.
Nigeria’s defense, lead by veteran and team captain Joesph Yobo, will have their hands full with the Bosnian attack all game. Nigeria lost Godfrey Oboabona in the first half of the match against Iran and he is unavailable for the match on Saturday. The Super Eagles will need to see more out of forward Emmanuel Emenike and midfielders Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel, all of whom struggled against Iran.
What do you think of today’s slate? Do you see Germany taking care of business against Ghana? How do you see Argentina performing in their more comfortable 4-3-3? Do you believe Nigeria can defeat Bosnia?
Share your thoughts below.