Saturday brings a pivotal Group D clash between two teams enduring vastly different fortunes as Ghana face Australia in Rustenburg. Following an impressive 1-0 win against Serbia, the Black Stars are aiming to become just the second African nation after Nigeria to qualify for the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup™ a second time. Australia conversely need to recover physically and mentally after the well-documented masterclass they received in a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Germany in their group opener. The match will be a test of youth against experience with the youngest squad at South Africa 2010, Ghana, facing the second-oldest in the Socceroos.
Ghana-Australia, Group D, Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Saturday 19 June, 16.00 (local time)
The two sides have met on six previous occasions with Australia winning four and Ghana one. The two most recent meetings were tight affairs with Australia prevailing 1-0 at home two years ago, following a 1-1 draw in London in 2006. Despite Australia's porous defence against Germany, another tight contest can be expected with Pim Verbeek's side renowned for their frugality, having conceded just one goal in their final eight qualifying matches. Similarly Ghana have generally been defensively solid in 2010, notably maintaining a good record during their impressive run to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations final in January, when they kept three clean sheets in five.
Australia enter the match without their talismanic goalscoring midfielder Tim Cahill due to suspension, and it will be a loss sorely felt by the Socceroos who have only tallied seven goals in six matches this year with a different goalscorer on each occasion. It is a similar story for Ghana who have not scored more than once in their last 10 matches dating back to their final 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier last November. Australia will also be without one of their stars of Germany 2006, defensive midfielder Vince Grella, and Verbeek will likely ring the changes after their heavy defeat with much interest focused on the fitness of Harry Kewell who sat out the first match having missed the last six months due to injury. Ghana's strong performance in the middle of the park against Serbia suggested that influential midfielder Michael Essien will not be as sorely missed as expected, with youngster Andre Ayew shining in place of the benched Inter Milan star Sulley Muntari.
Players to watch
Asamoah Gyan v Lucas Neill
Enigmatic striker Asamoah Gyan will be looking to maintain his impressive FIFA World Cup scoring form after grabbing the winner against Serbia, four years after he etched his name into the history books as scorer of the nation's first goal at Germany 2006. The Rennes man will come up against Australia skipper Lucas Neill who has marshalled a miserly defence over the last few years, only to see all that good work undone against Germany.
100 – Ghana will have the honour of becoming the African nation to represent the continent for the 100th time at a FIFA World Cup.
What they said
"At this level of football, it is very dangerous to get complacent and we are aware of that. It will be a different game against us because they want to come back from their defeat. We know they will be dangerous but we are focused and determined," Stephen Appiah, Ghana midfielder
"When you have bad days then it depends on how you bounce back to determine how good we are. I know we're a good team, we did well to qualify and hopefully we can bounce back," Scott Chipperfield, Australia defender
Voice of the fans
"Ghana is in a good position, Australia might be like a cornered animal looking to take a bite at all costs and that, I believe, will be their Achilles' heel, as they'll be looking to make an impression forgetting that Ghana can also bite back. I say Ghana 2-0," FIFA.com user dasibre