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Germans win group

Müller instrumental in win over Ghana

Germany are through to the last sixteen at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. An 83,391 crowd at Soccer City in Johannesburg watched as Joachim Löw’s men beat Ghana by the only goal of the game, netted by Mesut Özil on the hour from a Thomas Müller lay-off. The Germans now play England on Sunday afternoon.

In the parallel Group D fixture, Australia shocked Serbia with a 2-1 win. That result and score meant Ghana also made the Round of 16, where they are likely to be Africa’s sole representatives.

Schweinsteiger off injured

Alongside Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and captain Philipp Lahm were the other FCB men to start the match, with Jerome Boateng taking over from Holger Badstuber on this occasion. Twenty-year-old Toni Kroos also made his World Cup debut as an 81st-minute substitute for Schweinsteiger, who hobbled off with an apparent thigh injury. The extent of the problem will not be known until Thursday.

“It was an unbelievably hard-fought game. A number of our tactics didn’t really come off, but at the end of the day, we’re through to the next stage,” a relieved Löw commented afterwards. Although the Germans attempted to put Ghana under pressure and fashioned a half-chance or two, the Africans posed a constant threat on the break. The balance of play swung one way and then another, until Müller continued a move initiated by Schweinsteiger and Lahm, teeing up Bremen schemer Özil for a fine left-footed drive to settle the issue.

First in their group

“We rode our luck at times. The pressure was on, but we coped. It was a big game for us, because we were utterly determined to make the last sixteen, and we’re there,” Lahm summarised afterwards. The pressure of having to win to be absolutely sure of progress took a visible toll on the young German team, although in the event, Australia’s victory meant a draw would have been enough. In the final standings, Germany finished top of the section on six points, from Ghana (4), Australia (4) and Serbia (3).

Löw’s side now face arch-rivals England at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon. “Any meeting with England is huge, and we’re really looking forward to it. We’re looking ahead with confidence, although we know there are things we have to do better,” said Lahm. Miroslav Klose, suspended for the Ghana match after his dismissal against Serbia, is likely to return for Sunday’s encounter.