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Friday June 20, 2014 MYT 3:37:05 AM
Friday June 20, 2014 MYT 3:38:06 AM
Ghana's national soccer team player Kevin-Prince Boateng attends a training session at the Dunas Arena soccer stadium in Natal June 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
SANTO ANDRE Brazil (Reuters) - Germany will be looking to silence Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng in their World Cup Group G match on Saturday after the German-born midfielder accused Joachim Loew's team of lacking a "tough-guy" leader to carry them through tight matches.
Boateng, who once played for Germany's Under-21 team before switching to Ghana, touched a nerve by saying that no German takes charge in tough games - as in their semi-final defeat by Italy at Euro 2012 and a 4-4 draw with Sweden last year.
Germany were in splendid form in their 4-0 win over Portugal and will be looking to secure safe passage to the last 16 with victory over Ghana in Fortaleza.
Loew is hoping to field the same starting line-up that crushed Portugal even though there are question marks surrounding defender Mats Hummels, who hobbled off in the second half with a severely bruised thigh.
Expectations are running high on Loew and the three-times World Cup winners, who are among the favourites in Brazil, after they reached the semi-finals in the last two World Cups and got to the final in 2002.
Their demolition of Portugal, the team they feared most in the arguably the tournament's most difficult group that also includes the United States, put more pressure on Germany to win the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
Germany beat Ghana 1-0 in the final match of the 2010 World Cup group stage to top the standings but Ghana advanced as well. It was a historic match when Boateng and his brother Jerome, a Germany defender, become the first brothers to play against each other at a World Cup finals.
"We need to take the teamwork, confidence and enthusiasm we had in the opening match into the Ghana match," said captain Phillip Lahm, whose team want to clinch a spot in the round of 16 before facing the United States and their former coach Juergen Klinsmann on June 26.
The Germans were relieved to see Spain eliminated in the group phase, a team they probably feared most.
But they are also aware that the big win against Portugal could be worthless if they lose to Ghana. At the 2010 World Cup Germany won their opening match 4-0 against Australia before losing to Serbia 1-0.
"We won one match so far in the group phase but that's nothing compared to what we came here for," said midfielder Toni Kroos, who had two assists against Portugal.
Loew will likely stick to the 4-3-3-3 line-up that beat Portugal and set up Thomas Mueller for three goals.
Boateng certainly threw down the gauntlet with his comments.
"I guessed I touched a nerve by speaking the truth about that," said Boateng, who fancies himself as such a tough-guy leader.
"In really tight matches for Germany in the past there was never anyone who stepped up to take charge. Jogi Loew can hang those on the wall if he wants. It's not just the opinion of one player. It's a fundamental truth."
Ghana, after losing their first match to the United States, have their backs to the wall.
They have a quality midfield and attack but porous defence, even with Asamoah Gyan switched to full back now to fill a gap.
Michael Essien has a toe injury but if he recovers will likely come into midfield with Boateng picked in attack ahead of Jordan Ayew.
(Additional reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by Ed Osmond)
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