World Cup Group D Preview

Group D is going to be one of the more competitive groups in the tournament. With Germany looking to be the frontrunner, Serbia, Ghana, and Australia will all battle for second place to advance into the knockout stage.

Germany seems to always make deep runs in the big international tournaments, having won the World Cup three times. They finished as runners-up in 1966, 1982, 1986, and 2002. On top of that, the Nationalmannschaft has three third-place finishes to show for. They have also won three European titles and finished second in the European Championships in 1976, 1992 and 2008.

The German team will have to compensate for the absence of playmaker Michael Ballack, who was supposed to be team-captain and was thought to initiate the German attack The 33-year-old midfielder was hurt on a foul by Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng in the English FA-Cup Finale. Boateng is on Ghana’s roster and will face Germany in the teams’ final group match on June 23.

Phillip Lahm has taken over as the captain for Germany and it remains to be seen if he can lead the team like Ballack has in the past. Joachim Loew’s squad is called “Turniermannschaft” – tournament team – among followers of the sport, indicating that the German national team always seems to do best in a tournament situation.

Serbia seems to be the slight favorite to finish second in the group. After they failed to qualify for the 2008 Euro, they have improved drastically. Radomir Antic’s squad won its qualifying group, beating out France and an improved Austria. However, they lost to France and Lithunia on the way to winning the group.

Serbia’s biggest problem might be dealing with the different styles of play they will be facing. They have appeared under different names (Kingdom of Yugoslavia, SFR Yugoslavia, FR Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbia) at nine World Cups, with their best results coming in 1930 and 1962. They finished in fourth place both times.

Ghana made a run to the Round of 16 four years ago, finishing second to Italy in their group. They will play on their home-continent which is always an advantage. They have won the African Nations Cup four times and finished runners-up four more times. They lost a heartbreaker in January to finish second in the African Nations Cup, when Egypt’s striker Geddo scored with five minutes to play.

Ghana will sorely miss midfielder Michael Essien, who failed to recover from a knee-injury in time to make the squad. Essien had suffered the injury while training with the team for the Cup of Nations in January. The 27-year-old is widely considered the team’s most dangerous player.

The Australian squad surprised at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and almost eliminated eventual World Champion Italy in the Round of 16. The Socceroos played a great game against the Squadra Azzura, but lost on a controversial penalty kick in extra time. Italy’s Fabio Grosso went down on a challenge by Lucas Neill that caused the penalty kick, but many believe that Grosso should have been called for diving.

Australia has changed coaches since their run in Germany, but they are a team that can’t be overlooked. They finished atop of Group A in the final stage of the Asian qualifying region with six wins and two draws. The Socceroos outscored their opponents 12-1 in the process.

Pinnacle has Germany as the clear cut favorite to win the group at -111. I agree here, and I think barring any major problems, Germany should cruise through the group stage. If you believe a slip-up for the Nationalmannschaft could happen, all three other teams offer some value. Australia’s line to win the group is +788, while Serbia is offered at +323 and Ghana at +426.

I think Australia can repeat their strong run from 2006 and advance to the Round of 16. Pinnacle offers the line for this event at +234.

If you believe the unthinkable could happen and the German “Turniermannschaft” will not make it out of the group stage, your $100 investment could turn into $348.

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