Most observers are aware that Kevin-Prince Boateng was born in Germany but chose to represent Ghana at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. However, a lesser-known character, the kind of always-ready but unshowy workman for which Die Nationalelf themselves are known, could play a role in denying the country in which he grew up a place in the Round of 16.
Hans Adu Sarpei should start his third match at left-back for Ghana in their quest to become just the second African nation – after Nigeria of 1994 and 1998 – to get out of the FIFA World Cup's first phase more than once. Not only is the 33-year-old an experienced head in the youngest team at South Africa 2010, but he will bring with him a lifetime of knowledge gained playing in Germany.
“I spent all of my career in Germany,” Sarpei told FIFA ahead of Wednesday's match. “I know a lot of the German players and I know how Germany will play. The coach will of course tell us how we should play against them, what we should do, but of course there are some small details that I can pass on to the players.”
And when he looks at the Germany team, he looks through the eyes of a defender - one who watched Joachim Low's side overwhelm Australia with attacking flair in a 4-0 defeat, before their ten men fell 1-0 to Serbia. Those displays have convinced Sarpei that members of the Ghanaian rearguard will have quite a challenge on their hands when they run out at Soccer City tomorrow.
“When you see their last matches, [Germany] are especially strong up front, with [Mesut] Ozil, [Lukas] Podolski, [Thomas] Muller - they’re good when going forward,” he said, before breaking down one of their weaknesses: “In the match against Serbia they had problems in defence, especially on the left side - the left-back and the central defence. And I think there lies our chance to beat them.”
Does the Bayer Leverkusen player anticipate any special nerves or mixed feelings when facing his adopted country? “It will be emotional for me when we go out there, but my heart beats for Ghana and now I’m playing for Ghana," he explained. "When the game starts then everything else is forgotten."
Germany are giants of the sport, having reached the FIFA World Cup semi-finals an impressive 11 times, while Ghana are competing in just their second global finals. In their only previous meeting in a 1993 friendly, the Europeans emerged 6-1 winners, but the four-time African champions are riding the crest of a wave and possibly carrying the continent's hopes on their backs – just as they did in 2006. However, the Black Stars insist they will not be overawed by the opponent or the occasion.
Even knowing that a draw will be enough to send them through, Sarpei and Co are striving for victory. “I’m feeling great that we can play in such a big stadium,” he said. “A draw is enough for us, but no team can go into a match intending to play a draw. We will go into the match to win and to send the Germans home.”