Germany have point to prove without Ballack
Perennial contenders Germany enter the World Cup arena today determined to prove there is life after Michael Ballack when they face Australia in Durban.Updated: Jun 13, 2010 16:40 IST
Perennial contenders Germany enter the World Cup arena on Sunday determined to prove there is life after Michael Ballack when they face Australia in Durban.
The 33-year-old midfielder given a close-season free transfer from English Premiership champions Chelsea was ruled out of the tournament by a injury during the FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth.
Ballack has been the midfield conductor of Germany for many years and how the three-time champions cope without him will be keenly noted at the 70,000-seat Moses Mabhida Stadium in the Indian Ocean city.
Germany have been boastful in the traditional pre-match war of words and Australia midfielder Tim Cahill from Everton says this will serve as the perfect motivational tool for the Socceroos.
The other Group D game between Ghana and Serbia in Pretoria four hours before could have a crucial bearing on the final standings with Germany expected to finish first and second place up for grabs.
Ghana are another team lacking their midfield maestro with a disastrous season for Michael Essien from Chelsea culminating in him being ruled out of the four-yearly football extravaganza.
After a lengthy early season absence, Essien played 45 minutes for the Black Stars in the African Nations Cup last January before injuring his knee in training and has not been in action since.
Serbian footballers could be forgiven for having an identity crisis given that the East European country previously appeared at the World Cup as Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro.
The three-match Sunday show kicks off in the northern city of Polokwane with a clash of Group C minnows Slovenia and Algeria and both teams have been keen to install the other as favourites to win a game neither dare lose.
South Korea and Argentina were second-day victors while an embarrassing blunder by England goalkeeper Robert Green gifted the United States a 1-1 Rustenburg draw.
Green allowed a tame Clint Dempsey shot slip from his grasp and over the line before half-time after captain Steven Gerrard had given England the perfect start with a clinical early goal.
Diego Maradona-coached Argentina and Nigeria delivered thrilling fare at Ellis Park in Johannesburg during a Group B clash settled by an early headed goal from former Manchester United leftback Gabriel Heinze.
Israel-based goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made a series of superb saves for the Super Eagles and his acrobatics will have captured the attention of European scouts.
South Korea, whose 2002 semi-finals place remains the best showing by an Asian team in the World Cup, scored seven minutes into each half to see off timid Greece 2-0 in Eastern Cape city Port Elizabeth.
Lee Jung-soo struck the first as the 2004 European champions fell asleep while defending a corner and Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung ran through the defence for the second.
First Published: Jun 13, 2010 16:38 IST