Group D: Ballack’s Absence will Provide Chance for Motivated Serbs


Alex Eckardt is a Sounders FC season ticket holder and a passionate follower of his native German national side. During the World Cup, he will be organising regular World Cup viewing parties at the Phinney Neighbourhood Association.

We asked him to preview the Group his country will duke out with the Socceroos of Australia, the Black Stars of Ghana and Serbia, Group D.

The Boston Herald’s Kyle McCarthy will bring his preview and prediction for Group C, containing USA and England, after the other seven. He tells us it will be worth waiting for!

Dangerous Serbia to Edge out Germans

by Alex Eckardt

Without a doubt, Group D is one of the toughest if not the toughest group at the 2010 World Cup. Let’s have a look at the four teams.


Being a German native, I’ve been following the Nationalmannschaft for over three decades. Let’s face it, they usually look awful in their qualifying campaigns and warm-up matches but they are a tournament team and seem to find a way to prevail when it matters most. They haven’t failed to make it out of the group stages in the last 60 years but getting past these three teams won’t be easy. They are also facing some challenges within the team. There’s a big question mark around their goalkeeper situation. Filling the shoes of titans Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann will be next to impossible. This will put more pressure on the defense. Michael Ballack, captain and midfield orchestrator of the team, just picked up an injury in the FA Cup final. I’m not his biggest fan, but he plays a very important role for the team and figures largely into their overall strategy. Now that he will miss the tournament, players like Schweinsteiger and Oezil will have to be the driving forces in midfield.


Joining the Asian Football Confederation for qualifying was the best thing that could have happened to the Australians. It did two things: 1. They played more matches and against much better teams than you would find in the Oceania group. That makes them more competitive and more prepared than they ever were. 2. They no longer have to play the 5th place team from South America every four years which was the only way they were able to qualify in previous competitions. No one wants to play a South American team in a 2-game playoff. Going over the Australian player roster you may not recognize a lot of the names with the exception of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill. Kewell hasn’t seen any match action all year and there’s a good chance that he won’t be fit to compete in a few weeks time. Cahill had a strong season with Everton and scored 10 goals in all competitions. Australia played well in the 2006 World Cup and we’ll have to see if they can do it again in South Africa.


Finishing atop their qualifying group ahead of France made the rest of the world take notice – and rightfully so. This team should not be underestimated. They play solid football and they’re anchored by Vidic in defense (2008/09 English Premier League’s player of the season) and veteran Dejan Stankovic in midfield. They can certainly score goals too, as illustrated by their 5:0 thrashing of Romania in their final World Cup qualifier. This is their first World Cup as a sovereign nation so the motivation level and fan support will be off the charts.


The Black Stars are clearly one of the best if not the best team in Africa. Especially their midfield is a force to be reckoned with, featuring the prominent names of Essien, Appiah, and Muntari. Most of their squad play their club football for top flight teams in Europe so they are experienced and familiar with different styles of play. Their defense and attack, however, will have to be at their best to prevail in this group. Led by a Serbian coach, you can be assured that they will be well prepared for at least one of the teams. Let’s not forget that this is the first World Cup on African soil so I’m certain that all of the African teams will bring their A-game.

My prediction for Group D

All six matches in this group will be fiercely contested and anything is possible. Most likely, the top two spots in the group will be decided between Serbia, Germany, and Ghana. Australia will put up a good fight but I don’t see them emerging out of this group.

1. Serbia

2. Germany

3. Ghana

4. Australia

Next: Group E by Bobby McMahon: “The Dutch are still accepted as one of the benchmarks”


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  1. Watch the Australia v Serbia match for fireworks. A good chunk of the Aussie team the last time were of Croatian descent. I suspect this may turn out to be ‘eventful’.

  2. Trasch is also out for Germany. They’ve had a hell of a time at Midfield and Keeper slots.

  3. SoundersNerd on

    I predict that Germany will be the major surprise of the tourney- surprise that in the first time in decades, they won’t make it out of the group round. Ghana has always been strong, and this time has the home field advantage. That leaves Australia and Serbia battling for the other berth, and yes, I wonder if the Ozzies feel for the Serbs like they do for the Croatians?

  4. Juergen Klott on

    It will be tough but Germany will advance. The young Bayern players and Schweini will step up.