This is an important group for U.S. fans, because if the U.S. finished 2nd, it will play the winner of this group. This is a really tough group with Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana. Germany, Serbia and Ghana are all good teams and it will be interesting to see how this group plays out. At the moment, I expect the first big upset to happen here as Ghana and Serbia go through.
Group D Teams
Manager: Joachim Loew
Key player: Michael Ballack
Best: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990)
World ranking: 6
Only Brazil and Italy have won the World Cup on more occasions than three-time champions Germany. They have also been runners-up on four occasions and have more semi-final appearances than any other side with 11. They have not missed a World Cup finals since 1950 and that record was extended as they booked their place with a 1-0 victory away to their group rivals Russia. Miroslav Klose’s 35th-minute strike clinched the win and saw Germany win the group with one round of matches remaining.
A strong qualifying campaign suggests they will once again be a force in South Africa, albeit not as powerful as they once were. Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack and Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose remain world-class talents whilst young Werder Bremen winger Mesut Ozil is one to watch. They were comfortably beaten 2-1 by England in a friendly in Berlin late last year, but with their game faces on they will be a different proposition and should figure at the business end of proceedings.
Manager: Pim Verbeek
Key player: Tim Cahill
Best: Round two (2006)
World ranking: 21
Guus Hiddink may have gone but his influence remains. The Socceroos showed the same level of skill and passion that saw them only narrowly beaten by eventual winners Italy in the second round in 2006 by easing into the 2010 World Cup without conceding a goal in the six matches it took them to qualify. A 0-0 draw against Qatar in Doha wrapped things up for Pim Verbeek’s team after they picked up 14 points in Group A of the final Asian qualifying phase.
There are plenty of faces familiar to fans of the Premier League in the Australia squad. Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer, Everton defender Lucas Neill, and midfield duo Brett Emerton of Blackburn and Everton’s Tim Cahill all feature regularly for their respective sides. Former Leeds and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell, now with Galatasaray is another skilled, if inconsistent performer. The highest seeded sides will not relish a group encounter with them and they may well make another foray into the knockout stages.
Manager: Radomir Antic
Key player: Nemanja Vidic
Best: Fourth place (1930, 1962, as Yugoslavia)
World ranking: 20
Serbia beat Romania 5-0 in Belgrade to earn automatic qualification for the 2010 World Cup as unassailable leaders of European qualifying Group Seven. Nikola Zigic gave the Serbs a half-time lead before they hammered home their superiority after the break through goals from Marko Pantelic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and a Milan Javanovic double. Edging an albeit out-of-sorts France into second place in a tough group shows the strides Serbia have made.
Serbia are coached extremely efficiently by former Luton player Radomir Antic, who has built a solid side that also comprises plenty of firepower. Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic is the most recognisable face, but defender Branislav Ivanovic is a consistent performer for Chelsea, midfielder Nenad Milijas has performed well at Wolves and Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic remains a class performer in midfield. A lack of big tournament experience could be their undoing.
Manager: Milovan Rajevac
Key player: Michael Essien
Best: Round three (2006)
World ranking: 37
Ghana were the only African side to progress beyond the first round in the 2006 World Cup and became the first African side to reach the 2010 World Cup via the qualifiers when they defeated Sudan 2-0 in Accra. Inter Milan’s Sulley Muntari and Chelsea’s Michael Essien scored the goals in each half to give Ghana an unassailable lead at the top of qualifying Group D. In truth though, despite the improvements Mali and Sudan have made, it would have been a major shock had they failed to qualify.
The Black Stars are reliant on the superb Essien and his midfield partner Muntari. Both have shown enough for their respective club sides to suggest they can compete with the world’s best. However, there are concerns over the goalkeeping position and they lack a potent goalscorer. If they keep their discipline they could repeat their feat of 2006 but are unlikely to go much further.