Germany vs. Ghana, 2014 World Cup preview: Say goodbye to the Black Stars

Ghana probably knew that their first game was a virtual must-win. They lost. Now Germany are here to score lots of goals, probably.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Germany 2, Ghana 2: Thriller ends in draw

The match between Ghana and the United States was a virtual elimination game. Both of them have known since December that they'd be in with a great shot to progress with a win, likely out with a draw and almost certainly dead with a loss. Ghana lost, and are now in a situation where they have to get a point from Germany to feel like they have any chance to go through, and even a draw might not be good enough.

Germany, meanwhile, are probably pretty confident about progressing after laying a beating on Portugal. They're still dealing with some injury issues, but they should be able to handle the Ghanaians.

Team news

Mats Hummels isn't definitely ruled out for Germany, but he'll face a fitness test after pulling up lame against Portugal. If he can't play, expect Shkodran Mustafi to take his place. Bastian Schweinsteiger should also return, giving Sami Khedira a bit of an extended rest -- the Real Madrid man came back very fast from a torn ACL.

Ghana don't have any reported injuries, but failure to make changes from the team that lost to the United States could result in a bit of a beating, and it would be surprising if Ghana didn't decide to switch to a three-man midfield. Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng could be introduced, while Christian Atsu probably deserves to keep his place over Jordan Ayew if Kwesi Appiah adds a midfielder.

Projected lineups (left to right)

Germany lineup (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Benedikt Höwedes, Shkodran Mustafi, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng; Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Mario Götze; Thomas Müller

Ghana lineup (4-3-3): Adam Kwarasey; Kwadwo Asamoah, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Daniel Opare; Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng; Andre Ayew, Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu

Key matchups

Michael Essien (or Mohammed Rabiu) vs. Germany's attackers - Germany's best attribute is how well their front four move around to pull the defense apart and fill the spaces that their teammates vacate. They play the closest thing to "total football" that you'll see at this tournament. It'll be a team effort for Ghana to keep them from running up the score, but their most defensive midfielder will have to be the most disciplined of them all, and will probably be put in a spot where he has to make some impressive tackles.

Bastian Schweinsteiger vs. his ankle - Germany's options in midfield all kind of stink. Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm aren't real midfielders, Khedira's dealing with an aforementioned knee problem and Schweinsteiger's had glass ankles for a couple of years now. He sat out Germany's first game and they'll be susceptible to counters from Ghana if he's not fully fit.

Prediction

Ghana were better than the United States for most of their opening game, but the two goals they conceded came on bad defending mistakes. And despite having all the possession and playing against a U.S. team that couldn't keep the ball for more than 10 seconds in the second half, they failed to create lots of clear chances. They're not good enough to beat even this hobbled version of Germany. 3-0 to the Germans.

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