World Cup Daily: Germany off to fast start, more goalkeeper hijinks
Germany unleashed its new blend of youth and experience to stunning effect
Ghana raised the continent's spirits by notching the first win by an African nation
Australia coach Pim Verbeek showed no ambition by fielding a striker-less lineup
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On the pitch, the big story was Germany's shellacking of an aging Australia. However, off it the newsmaker was the ongoing saga of the vuvuzelas. Last summer FIFA head Sepp Blatter refused to ban vuvuzelas, insisting they were instrinsic to the party South Africa would offer. He even had a parp on one himself. But after three days of non-stop droning (the horns, not Blatter), chief executive of the World Cup organizing committee Danny Jordaan says he's considering a rethink. "My personal view is that I would prefer singing," he said, noting that most attempts at getting a chorus going -- and in fact most national anthems -- had been drowned out by vuvuzelas. "[Singing] has always been a great generator of a wonderful atmosphere in the stadiums and we will try to encourage them to sing ... If one lands on the pitch in anger then we will not think twice and take action."
This was a harder call today than it has been in the last two days. Asamoah Gyan led the Ghanaian frontline with vim and vigor, and Kwadwo Asamoah fed him nicely. Mesut Ozil showed such wonderful pace and adventure in the playmaker role for Germany that it was a tear not to pick him. But as the game wound down, and I had a moment to reflect, it was harder and harder to ignore Thomas Muller's contribution from Germany's right wing. If you let yourself get carried away (easy to do after an exciting game that followed two less mesmerising matches), you can see shades of 1974 and Jurgen Grabowski in some of his first half play. Maybe I'm squinting. But don't forget he meandered into the middle to score the third goal, too.
Just the memory of Rob Green's gaffe yesterday should be enough to see him here again today, but he makes a lucky escape thanks to Algerian goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi. Slovenian captain Robert Koren's 79th-minute shot didn't look at all dangerous, but Chaouchi appeared to misjudge the bounce and let it straight through. Slovenia ended up taking three points from a match that neither side deserved to end celebrating.
Virtually everone in a Ghana shirt gave a good account of themselves against Serbia today, but Anthony Annan's fine work in front of the back four was the foundation for his team's confident attacking play. As well as limiting Milan Jovanovic's supply line to Serbia's front pair, Annan completed 88 percent of his own passes -- his understanding with Asamoah was particularly influential.
Its qualification campaign told us to expect exciting things from Serbia, particularly down the flanks, where Milan Jovanovic and Milos Krasic had defenders running scared. So it was something of a shock to see the lack of invention when Serbia came up against Ghana in the day's second game. Both wingers passed the ball backwards or sideways at least 75 percent of the time, and 90 minutes' endeavour included only two shots on target.
Mark Schwarzer got his whole hand behind Lukas Podolski's shot for Germany's first goal and still couldn't alter its course enough to stop it going in. But Germany's second, headed powerfully home by Miroslav Klose, gets the nod because Phillip Lahm's ball from the right-wing was so perfectly measured.
You can half understand why Pim Verbeek set his team up primarily to try and stop Germany, but not a single striker-by-trade on the pitch for Australia? At a World Cup? Disappointing, and it only has a hope of working if your opposition play just as conservatively. Unfortunately for him, Germany raced out of the blocks and just kept running. In fairness, switching Vince Grella out and Brett Holman in looked like having an impact in the opening minutes of the second half, but Tim Cahill's straight red for a (sloppy but no more) challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger put paid to Australia's chances, if not its ambition.
"It was a mental victory. We wanted to win so much so it's great for our confidence to get that win" -- Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek makes lemonade after a drab game with Algeria brought his team a fortuitous three points.
Korea's Bokwang Family Mart reported this morning that sales were up by 358 percent after South Korea's 2-0 win over Greece -- including a 313 percent leap in beer sales on the same time last year. Apparently there was a similar jump in sales of condoms. Safety first.
Noises from the England camp suggest Ledley King strained his groin against USA and won't be able to play in England's match against Algeria, if he plays again at all. However, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard's collision with Emile Heskey doesn't appear to have done any lasting damage, although there's suspicion of bruised ribs. Arjen Robben (hamstring) has been ruled out of Monday's match between the Netherlands and Denmark, and Danish forwards Niklas Bendtner and John-Dahl Tomasson are out and doubtful respectively.
Netherlands versus Denmark looks like a peach of a tie, with the midfield face-off between Christian Poulsen and Wesley Sneijder key to the Danes' success in keeping the Dutch at bay.
Japan versus Cameroon looks like a mismatch; if Paul Le Guen gets his midfield right (word is he's dropping Alex Song and going for the more robust Stephen Mbia) and it supplies Samuel Eto'o, Japan could be quickly overrun. Midfielder Keisuke Honda is Japan's best hope of a spark.
Italy versus Paraguay is another interesting matchup, though it could be a chess game to continue this World Cup's low-scoring start. Italy will be without Andrea Pirlo (Riccardo Montolivo is likely to fill-in) and question marks remain over Paraguay's creativity -- set pieces may be critical. Plus Paraguay's World Cup record in opening games (played seven, lost six) and against European teams (played 11, lost 10) doesn't bode well.
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