World Cup Odds and Picks: Serbia Vs. Ghana Predictions
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 6/11/2010
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This summer Ghana will try to pick up where it left off in the 2006 World Cup after an impressive run to the knockout round four years ago in Germany. On the other side of the pitch Serbia is just trying to get off on the right foot in its inaugural World Cup appearance as an independent country.
The Black Stars were the only African team four years ago to advance beyond group stage and the same may hold true again this year if Ghana is able to navigate the treacherous Group D that, along with Serbia, also features Germany and Australia, two countries who advanced to the knockout stages four years ago.
While this is the first World Cup under the nation of Serbia, the country has a long history of World Cup appearances under the former Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro. Just four years ago it was Ghana making its first World Cup appearance and it definitely made an instant name for itself with a six-point performance to finish second in a group that featured World Cup champions Italy along with the Czech Republic and the United States. Serbia will hope for an equally strong World Cup debut.
That debut begins when Serbia meets Ghana on June 13 at 10 a.m. EST in the 104-year old Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Tshwane/Pretoria.
Both teams arrive in South Africa in impressive fashion. Serbia made a gigantic statement in Europe with a first-place finish in its zone that also featured France. Serbia clinched the group with an emphatic 5-0 result at home against Romania. Ghana was just as decisive in ensuring its trip to South Africa. Ghana did not concede a single goal in the finals of qualifying until it had secured the berth.
The big name in this group-stage matchup would have been Ghana’s Michael Essien. The 27-year old Chelsea midfielder burst onto the scene in the 2006 World Cup and may have shown his worthiness after being suspended for the second-round game against Brazil that Ghana lost 3-0. Essien was the anchor of a skillful midfield but the Black Stars were dealt a devastating blow when he was ruled out of the World Cup two weeks before the tournament after complications from a knee surgery. Considering their lethargic performance in the Brazil loss with Essien, the Ghana faithful have to be worried about this latest development.
The loss of Essien does more than even the playing field with Serbia, it may even tip the scales in favor of the Serbs. Ghana still boats the better midfield in this game with the duo of Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah. It is Muntari, a 25-year old central midfielder from Inter Milan who has been called upon in the media by former Ghana players to pick up the leadership role. He enters the World Cup with momentum from being a part of Inter Milan’s run to the Champions League trophy. His midfield partner Appiah (who also plays in Italy’s Serie A, for Bologna) could be the central figure in how Ghana does against Serbia and in the tournament overall. Appiah is 29 years old and his career has been hampered with injuries throughout. He captained the 2006 Ghana team and many predict that this could be the tournament where he cements his legacy.
The midfield is where Ghana has the biggest advantage over Serbia. That midfield has an even bigger responsibility in generating an attack, considering the weakness of the Black Stars up top. The lack of pedigreed attack men is compensated with the outstanding midfield and a stout defense anchored by Lyon’s John Mensah and Fulham’s John Paintsil. They play in front of an experienced and well-traveled goalkeeper in Richard Kingson. The injury bug has affected the Ghana defense to as Kingson and Mensah are far from 100-percent, but both expect to gut it out for the World Cup.
While Ghana’s talent is condensed in the midfield, Serbia has capable stars in attack, midfield and backline. No star is bigger than 28-year old central defender Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United. The 2009 Barclays Player of the Season, Vidic has achieved success on every level he has played on. Another seasoned veteran is 31-year old Dejan Stankovic who patrols the midfield for Serbia. Stankovic was also a part of Inter Milan’s Champions League triumph this season. The big difference against Ghana may be the scoring threats Serbia brings to the table with Mark Pantelic and Milan Jovanovic, who scored four goals for Serbia in World Cup qualifying. Those two should be able to exploit the weakened backline of Ghana.
Serbia vs. Ghana World Cup Odds:
In one of the most evenly matched games Serbia comes out as a small favorite in three-way betting at +115 with Ghana a slight underdog at +225. The odds for a draw are +220. In two-way betting Serbia at -.5 is +115 and Ghana at +.5 is -135. The total is set at 2.0.
Serbia vs. Ghana Picks and Predictions: Take Serbia at +115
The experience Ghana gained in Germany in 2006 is invaluable, but unfortunately most of that experience is either ruled out of the game or playing below 100-percent. Health trumps experience here and drawing an upstart Serbia team in the first game is no favor at all to Ghana. This game had all the makings of a nip-and-tuck game that likely would have resulted in a draw, but without Essien or any legitimate scoring threats, this game is Serbia’s to lose.
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