Serbia versus Ghana, June 13, Pretoria
Milovan Rajevac tends to set-out conservative sides that try to be opportunistic early, but against a Serbian team that gives up a surprising number of goals, Ghana might be better served to used their athleticism in midfield to take the game to Serbia. Particularly if Rajevac decides Kwadwo Asamoah will play a prominent role, Ghana has a creative presence that can identify and exploit any Serbian defensive problems.
But if Ghana does not show this ambitious and lets Serbia dictate the match, the Serbs will eventually be able to use the wing play of Milos Krasic and Milan Jovanovic to break down the Black Stars. Nikola Zigic will demand attention in the middle, with Dejan Stankovic and Zdravko Kuzmanovic providing support through the middle, Serbia has a number of players who can take advantage of the spaces opened up by the Serbian stars.
And the more Serbia has the ball, the more fouls they will draw, which puts one of the most dangeous teams on set pieces in a position to turn the match. Unless Rajevac plays uncharacteristically ambitious at the onset, the could be like sitting ducks for Serbia.
Serbia 2, Ghana 0 could be the result, under those circumstances, but although Serbia has become an it team of shorts and Ghana has lost Michael Essien, this match could go either way. Ghana needs to believe in their ability from the onset. If they do and that manifests in their tactics, thay can win.
Germany versus Australia, June 13, Durban
Australia qualified strong out of Asia, but since they have not looked as good, including during the friendlies leading into the World Cup. Their qualifying record partially reflected a stylistic advantage they had over their confederation opponents; specifically, over Japan. They won't see similar advantages in Group D.
Like Ghana, Germany has suffered signficiant injuries, but they remain one of the most talented teams in the world. Perhaps they don't have the depth in midfield and defense that they would like, but the starting XI Joachim Low will start on Sunday will be the best in Group D.
That superiority will be particularly evident in midfield, when Mesut Ozil will be able to get the most out of Lukas Podolski, Thomas Müller, and Miroslav Klose or Cacau. Australian defensive midfielder Vincenzo Grella will be tasked with disrupting Özil, but the young German has become accustomed to such attentions.
Unless Australia can choke the supply line through Özil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany's forward and wingers will be able to take advantage of a relatively slow defense. Lucas Neill and Craig Moore are strong center halves, but you can run through them. Germany 3, Australia 1.
Germany versus Serbia, June 18, Port Elizabeth
Germany would be able to similarly take advantage of Serbia's defending if Stankovic was not in the Serbian midfield. With the Internazionale midfielder there, Ozil and Schweinsteiger will be in for a tougher battle. In addition, the presence of Nemanja Vidic at the back can cover for a number of evils.
Going forward, the same problems Serbia presents to Ghana will be present with Germany. Per Mertesacker and Holger Badstuber will have to give strong performances in the middle of defense, though Germany's fullbacks (Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boatang) should be better equipped to deal with the Serbian wings than Ghana was.
Ultimately, you have two teams who can score goals and have specific ways they can exploit their opponent. Whereas some opponents might crumble to Germany under similar circumstances, Serbia's players have played against all the Germans. They are familiar with this level of play. This match looks like a Germany 2, Serbia 2 result.
Ghana versus Australia, June 19, Rustenburg
This is another match where you'd like to see Ghana take the game to their opponents, but even if they sit back against Australia, it's unclear how Australia will consistently make their way through a strong Ghana midfield. Australia will try to go over Ghana. It won't take long for Ghana to start applying pressure higher on the pitch.
Asamoah Gyan will be a problem for Australia. He is not spectacularly fast, strong, skilled, but he can do a little bit of everything, and with movement along the Australian line that will help open up space in the defense, Ghana should eventually be able to create scoring chances.
The Black Stars' huge midfield advantage will lead to a Ghana 2, Australia 0 result, putting Australia out of the tournament.
Ghana versus Germany, June 23, Johannesburg (Soccer City)
Germany comes into this match needing a point to go through, though a draw means they could lose the group to Serbia. Ghana may still be out with a win, coming into this match on three points.
This match should be stifling, with two good midfields constantly challenging each other. It should be physical and contentious and relatively low scoring, and the longer the match goes without a team asserting control, the more apt Germany will be to be content with a draw and the certainty of moving into the next round.
And while Ghana has a strong team, the aren't so strong (paticularly in attack) to break Germany. You could see Germany 1, Ghana 1, with the Germans having one eye on the second round, Ghana giving everything they have with the hopes of moving-on. But with this result, moving on will depend on the Serbs.
Serbia versus Australia, June 23, Nelspruit
This will be an extremely physical match and will play to Australia's strengths more than Serbia needs to. Both teams should have goals in them, and with the Serbians keeping an eye on what's happening in Johannesburg, they know they'll need a point.
Australia, coming into this match on no points, will also become content with a draw, and while each of these teams could have another goal in them, this match could end with a Serbia 2, Australia 2 result that would make both teams happy. Final Standings Germany - 7 points Serbia - 5 points Ghana - 4 points Australia - 1 point