Germany 3-0 Ecuador / Poland 2-1 Costa Rica
So, now we know what England have got to do, or not do, to get through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Or, rather, we don’t. Because Ecuador put out half of their reserves this afternoon, we haven’t learnt too much about either of them.
So… what little have we learnt about them? Well, let’s start with Germany. For one thing, they’re growing in confidence. Today was their best performance so far. Ballack was excellent – getting forward considerably more than he did against Poland, and Klose took his chances well. Having said that… Podolski, supposedly still the golden boy of German football, still needs approximately seven chances to put one away – his confidence will have grown as a result of his performance today, but is that enough? The key to stopping Germany from playing effectively would appear to be to stop Ballack getting forward, but… how to do that? A stopping midfielder like Hargreaves? It’s a tough call. I still think that England could beat Germany. They haven’t had anything like a defensive test in two matches now, and the sight of Wayne Rooney (if he can achieve anything like his full pelt) would be a fairly fearsome sight for them. We’ll have more of an idea of whether that’s likely after tonight – but then we’ll know whether England are playing Germany too.
We learnt even less about Ecuador. I remain firm in my belief that they are nothing special. We certainly know that they don’t have much strength in depth – this was as lifeless a performance as any of the tournament’s lame ducks have put in so far. Other than that… zilch. Surely they couldn’t have been deliberately losing in order to play… well, whoever finishes first in England’s group, could they? No. Too improbable.
In the other match, Poland & Costa Rica demonstrated just how easy Germany and Ecuador’s progress to the second round had been, by playing out a lifeless wooden spoon match in Hanover. Poland won, almost by default, but the match tailed off towards the end as the players almost visibly wilted in the heat. Neither team will be particularly missed.