There was something oddly ironic about Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng being the man to put the biggest dent in Germany’s World Cup chances.
The Berlin-born midfielder recently accepted Ghana’s call-up to their World Cup squad – for whom he is eligible through his father – after becoming increasingly frustrated at not being able to break into his native country’s squad. A significant block on his route into the German side, of course, came in the shape of Michael Ballack, the man whose ankle Boateng damaged with a reckless tackle in the FA Cup Final.
The result is that the German captain will miss the tournament, and that Kevin-Prince is unlikely to be welcome home any time soon. The loss to their influential skipper follows first choice keeper Rene Adler’s injury, and adds to Joachim Low’s problems that also includes misfiring strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, the latter so poor in front of goal this season that he is likely to be pushed out on the wing.
But only the brave or naïve would dare completely write off Germany’s World Cup chances. They’ve made at least the quarter-final stage on their last seven Finals outings, proving that their infamous ruthless tournament form is a definite strength rather than a coincidence.
And while Group D is the closest South Africa has to a group of death, with Ghana, Australia and Serbia all capable of going through to the next round, it would still be a major shock to see the Germans exit early on.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is likely to be the man asked to fill Ballack’s shoes, and if previous World Cup performances are anything to go by, he will manage admirably – at least early on.
But by the time a potential semi-final against tie against Spain comes along, when the value of a cool, experienced head in the middle of the park cannot be exaggerated, Joachim Low could once again be lamenting Kevin-Prince Boateng’s unsightly lunge.