Germany won. Ghana lost, then won.
Mesut Oezil scored on a left-footed blast from outside the area yesterday in Johannesburg to give Germany a 1-0 victory over Ghana and first place in Group D at the World Cup.
Still, Ghana had reason to party.
Moments after the game, Ghana learned that Australia had defeated Serbia, 2-1 — a result that meant Ghana took second place in the group and also will move on to the round of 16.
“It was a very difficult match, but we fought and it was enough to get us through,’’ said Ghana midfielder Andre Ayew. “We had opportunities but the important thing is that we went through.’’
Once the scoreboard flashed the Aussie final, Ghana players hugged each other, waved their country’s flag, and ran to the corner where their supporters were cheering and dancing.
The Germans, too, were saluting their fans and enjoying the moment.
“It was a tense game. We could have made more out of our opportunities,’’ Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
“We were not very precise up front. But I can’t blame my young players, there was a lot of pressure, we had to win.’’
The Germans had been heavily favored to take the group but an upset loss to Serbia left them needing a victory to be assured of advancing. They’ll play England Sunday, another European power that won to stay alive yesterday.
Ghana will face the United States Saturday. The Black Stars knocked the US out of the tournament in 2006.
Ghana is the first of the six African teams in the tournament to make it to the knockout phase. It also could be the last. Only Ivory Coast still has a chance to join the Black Stars in the final 16.
Oezil had a chance to score in the 25th minute but Ghana goalie Richard Kingson blocked his shot. The German playmaker struck his winner in the 60th minute.
“I simply shot the ball,’’ Oezil said. “I had a lot of support from my teammates. It doesn’t matter whom we play next, we have to keep winning.’’
Ghana also had some chances and Kwadwo Asamoah broke through in the 51st minute but shot weakly at goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
The game featured half brothers Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana) and Jerome Boateng (Germany) playing each other, though the two had little contact.
“There is no time to celebrate, the next match is very close,’’ said Ghana’s Serbian coach, Milan Rajevac. “We knew it would be a tough match because to try to qualify against Germany is really hard. We played quite well, we resisted well, we had some chances but they had to win and they showed that they are among the best teams in the world.’’
England 1, Slovenia 0 — Just in time, England appeared at the World Cup.
Jermain Defoe knocked in a goal for the revived Three Lions as they beat Slovenia in Port Elizabeth, advancing to the second round.
It was a narrow but welcome escape for England, a pre-tournament favorite that was fighting off talk of internal strife after disappointing ties against the United States and Algeria.
The English needed a victory to move on and they got it, dictating the pace for much of the game. Now they’ll play Germany in the second round.
“This team, this spirit, played together and tried together,’’ said England coach Fabio Capello.
“I am really happy because I found the team I know. We now go forward. We can play against all the teams because the mind is now free.’’
The victory gave England second place in Group C behind the US, which beat Algeria, 1-0.
Slovenia entered the day the surprise leader in the group but finished with 4 points to 5 for the US and England.
The US earned first place based on tiebreakers.
Playing more aggressively than they did in draws with the Americans and Algerians, the English went ahead when Defoe put in James Milner’s cross from 5 yards out with a right-footed shot.
“I’m lost for words to be honest,’’ Defoe said.
“What a moment. Everyone was focused before the game. We are through, that’s the most important thing.’’
Australia 2, Serbia 1 — In Nelspruit, Tim Cahill and Brett Holman scored second-half goals to help the Aussies win the Group D contest.
However neither team advanced to the second round.