Injuries have taken Group D from being a good group to a must watch for any football fan. All four teams have a legitimate shot of advancing which will make it a tight, competitive group. Let's start at the top:
There are few certainties in life; the sun will always rise, there will always be 24 hours in the day, and Germany will advance beyond the group stage. However, for the first time in over seventy years it isn't a sure bet that the Germans will advance out of their difficult group. They are certainly the favorites, but not by an overwhelming margin. The Germans are on their third goalkeeper after number one Robert Enke committed suicide and his replacement, Rene Adler, suffered a rib injury leaving inexperienced Manuel Neuer to tend the net for the Germans. The German midfield also took a huge hit with the losses of Simon Rolfes and international superstar Michael Ballack. With a group that includes Serbia and Ghana look for the Germans to be challenged but still advance out of the group stage.
Serbia is the European team that most people don't know about. They are young, experienced, and talented enough to win their group and go deep in the tournament. All of Serbia's biggest stars are key players on top level European clubs. Look for 19-year old Nikola Zigic (all 6-7 of him) to wreak havoc on defenses and take the Serbs far.
I would have picked Ghana to be the second team to advance out of the group, but then the omnipresent injury bug hi the Black Stars. Chelsea star, Michael Essien and team captain Stephen Appiah are both out which leaves the midfield duties left to a group of young players who are inexperienced at the top level of international football. If the youth of Ghana can play up to their ability (they won the U-20 World Cup) then look for Sunday's match-up against Serbia to be the game that decides who advances past the group stage.
In football, a great goaltender can take you a long way. Case in point, Australia's Mark Schwarzer is just that: a great keeper who could take his team far. Schwarzer compounded with a solid defense gives the Aussies a good chance of containing the potent offenses of Germany and Serbia. However, their lack of offensive productivity will certainly hamper them in a tournament such as this. If Australia's defense can be as good as advertised then look for the Socceroos to cause problems for their opponents and potentially steal a win before going stubbornly into the night.
Tomorrow I'll preview Group E: The Group of Death