Unlike Saturday, Sunday does not have a top-of-the-card match that sells the ticket, but as was the case with Argentina yesterday, Sunday's three-match-slate features another multiple Cup-winner opening their South Africa 2010.
For Germany, the shock of losing their captain (Michael Ballack) to injury has long passed, and the Nationalmannschaft has regained its trademark confidence. Now the cracks that remain are those that were there before the Ballack news: Who scores the goals? And, who stops them from scored?
But those are the same questions each team has to answer on a match-by-match basis. Three times on Sunday, we'll see teams' answers.
Sunday's schedule for the third day of World Cup 2010:
Algeria versus Slovenia, Polokwane, 7:30 a.m. Eastern, ESPN
Where They Stand: Yesterday's draw between the United States and England means today's winner will be two points clear of the rest of the group after one round. That's provided there is a winner, but let's consider the favorites: Slovenia. Should they get three points on Sunday, they'll sit two draws away from the second round, and while it's precarious to predict draws, Slovenia's approach combined with the styles-of-play from the U.S. and England mean as it concerns draws, where there's a will, there could be a way.
Player To Watch, Algeria: Attacking midfielder Karim Ziani is the flair player in the Desert Foxes' midfield, and against a Slovenia defense that is expected to be one of the best in the tournament, Ziani is the Algerian most capable of supplying some formation-breaking moments of individual brilliance. His quickness plus skill could be a problem for a Slovene defense that can lack athleticism.
Player To Watch, Slovenia: Samir Handanovic came into the tournament with the rightful claim to being the best goalkeeper in this group; however, the United States' Tim Howard put forth a performance against England that even got high marks from the Soviet judge. It is unlikely Algeria will be able to create enough chances through a stalwart Slovene defense to give Handanovic the material to pass Howard; however, with a balanced Slovenia team, Handanovic is still as much as player to watch as anybody.
Prediction: Slovenia 2, Algeria 0, though until Slovenia takes the pitch, there have to be questions about Matzaj Kek's team. Even in Maribor there seems to be a sense of trepidation. Is this team ready? In that sense, it is good for the Slovenes that they've drawn the Algerians first.
Serbia versus Ghana, Pretoria, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, ESPN
Where They Stand: In a game between what is expected to be the second and third strongest teams in Group D, this could serve as a bit of an elimination match. If form holds after today and both teams beat Australia and lose to Germany, this match ends up being decisive. Of course, the dynamics of the match order will effect how much of that form holds, and with Ghana getting Germany last (and thus is more likely to be in a scenario where Germany would be content with a draw), Serbia would be slightly more impaired by a draw.
Player To Watch, Serbia: With Arjen Robben's status for the tournament uncertain, Milos Krasic could be South Africa 2010's best right winger. Against a Ghana defense that can be emboldened by a sometimes conservative set-up from coach Milovan Rajevac, Krasic's pace from the flank can be a formation-breaking feature for the Serbians.
Player To Watch, Ghana: Stephen Appiah did not play in the Cup of Nations, barely figured in qualifying and only appeared twice this season at the club level. He is the team's captain and, still trying to regain form after knee problems, will be needed for leadership and quality in a Ghana midfield that misses Michael Essien. Although the Black Stars' depth in midfield makes it fun to play fantasy manager and carve out different combinations on the back of that envelope that's sitting under the monitor, the combinations with Appiah seem to have backbone that is missing from those without.
Prediction: Milovan Rajevac's tendency to start conservatively usually leads to a well-managed match, but that seems to play into the hands of a Serbia team that can be opened-up at the back but will excel at the little things that turn tightly-contested affairs (read: set pieces). I like Serbia 2, Ghana 0, but more than the matches that featured the home team (South Africa) and one that was decidedly out-gunned (Nigeria), this could be the first match where we see the extent to which non-South Africa teams from Africa derive a home pitch advantage.
Germany versus Australia, Durban, 2:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC
Where They Stand: The pressure is on the Germans to not only get the three points they're favored to obtain but also show injuries to Michael Ballack and Hieko Westermann will not threaten their Adidas-given right to a place in the semifinals. For Australia, although hopes are high, this match will be a proof-of-concept. If they lose or draw, the Socceroos can still take solace in performing to a level that would portend results against Serbia or Ghana.
Player To Watch, Germany: Mesut Özil is one of a number of younger Germans (including Sami Khedira, Holger Badstuber, and Jerome Boateng) who will be counted on to augment the Mannschaft's injuries. What separates Özil from his peers is the impact he could have on the tournament as well as the dependence on him Joachim Low has developed. In the 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1) formation Low has adopted, Özil sits in the center of the midfield's attacking three, and with capable goal scorers Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller on his wings, his creativity will help make up for Germany's still unresolved problems at striker.
Player To Watch, Australia: If the center halves of the English Premier League have trouble dealing with Tim Cahill, you can't envy to task before Per Mertesacker and Badstuber. For Oz, the brilliant thing about Cahill is that you don't need to have a Xavi Hernández or even an Mesut Özil to utilize him. Have a Scott Chipperfield, Luke Wilshire, Mark Bresciano, or anybody who can float a ball thirty yards? That's all you need to make Cahill dangerous.
Prediction: Unfortunately for the Socceroos, human cloning is not part of the FIFA rule set, and even if it were, an army of Tim Cahills would have a decidedly Star Wars, clone army quality to it. Without replicating Cahill's quality, Australia is likely to fall short of Germany, who open another tournament strong: Germany 3, Australia 1.