June 23, 2010
One goal, but a beautiful one from the left foot of Mesut Özil exactly on the hour, gave Germany a 1-0 victory over Ghana at Soccer City stadium on Wednesday night.
It served a multitude of purposes. It gave the Germans first place in the group, and a meeting with a long history, against England in the Round of 16 on Sunday.
It meant that Ghana took second place, becoming the only African nation to reach the second round. And if Ghana seemed pleased to face the United States rather than England in that knockout stage, its players need to know that at this tournament, the Americans have proved at least the equal of England, and Landon Donovan has been a more effective scorer than England’s Wayne Rooney.
So many consequences from the solitary strike of Özil, a 21-year-old whose talents may yet emerge as the natural successor to Michael Ballack on this team. Not all Germans embrace with open arms this son of Turkish descent who reads the Koran before games. But there are 1.7 million people of Turkish origin in Germany, and with the national team, the Mannschaft, becoming a league of many nations, there could be more nights like this, more new heroes like Özil.
Germany’s strength against Ghana was the industrious power of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the cultured presence of young Özil. Supporters of Werder Bremen, where he plays club soccer, know Özil as a playmaker who can score goals.
Germany has waited on the latter quality.
When asked about it afterward, Özil answered in a time-honored phrase, “I simply shot the ball.”
There is nothing so simple as pure class. Ghana’s defense made the capital error of leaving him unmarked just outside the penalty area. When the ball came, the marvelously balanced, slender Özil controlled it with one touch, measured the distance between himself and the net with his eyes, and guided his shot like a laser beam.
Ghana’s goalkeeper, Richard Kingson was stranded. He would not have reached the shot with a baseball bat. He was beaten from the moment it left Özil’s foot.
The Germans and the Ghanaians accepted that this was a winning goal.
There was toil and there was hardship because Schweinsteiger had to leave the field, clutching his left hamstring.
There had been times when Ghana seemed fleeter of foot, a shade more imaginative than Germany, but many times when German power prevailed.
There were murmurs among the spectators that Ghana was happy to come in second, and thus to avoid England. Germany Coach Joachim Löw did not see it that way. He described Wednesday’s match as a tense and nerve-racking night for a young team, and the result as a relief.
The Germans and the English have had battles royal in their soccer history, but usually much later in tournaments.
And Germany had no option but to beat Ghana, because only victory assured it of progress. If Ghana did play with fire, it was nearly burned because Serbia missed a golden opportunity to score in the final seconds against Australia — and one goal would have eliminated Ghana as the last of the African teams.
Mesut Özil was born on October 15th, 1988 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesut_%C3%96zil
10 + 15 +2+0+0+9 = 36 = his personal year (from October 15th, 2009 to October 14th, 2010)
36 year + 6 (June) = 42 = his personal year (from June 15th, 2010 to July 14th, 2010) = Everybody loves Mesut.