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Germany's young stars face a battle against fired-up, wounded Serbia

Germany face a much sterner test in their second match in Group D Friday as Serbia look to recover from a damaging 1-0 defeat to Ghana in their opening game. A win for Germany would secure qualification.

Germany's Miroslav Klose, second from right, hugs teammate Per Mertesacker, third from left, at the end of the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010. Germany won 4-0.

Germany face a tough Serbia team after thrashing Australia

While Germany effectively bounced a woeful Socceroos team out of the tournament with a four goal blitz on Sunday, Serbia coach Radomir Antic watched his side labor against the Ghanaians who snatched victory through an 85th-minute penalty from Asamoah Gyan in a match the Serbs expected to win.

Germany were also confident ahead of their clash against Australia but few observers expected Joachim Loew's young side to dismantle the Aussies so comprehensively. A relentless attacking display proved too intense for the aging Socceroos and this offensive German approach was rewarded with goals from Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller and Cacau.

However, with post-Australia euphoria already raising German expectations to World Cup-winning heights, Loew is instilling caution among his young charges ahead of their clash with Serbia, who expect to welcome Borussia Dortmund's Neven Subotic back into their defensive ranks.

"Their defense is good with lots of experienced players," said Germany's assistant coach Hansi Flick. "Their midfield is very skilled and they like to play down the wings. Our team is very young...but they are a young generation that is extremely confident, who know exactly what they want. Serbia will play as if it's their last chance to stay in the tournament. We will have to be as watchful as hawks when we play them."

Serbia hurt by Ghana defeat

With one crucial victory in the bag, Germany may take on Serbia with a less cavalier attitude. If, as expected, Loew sticks with the side that thrashed the Socceroos, Germany will be looking to its solid back four and holding midfielders to negate the threat posed by strikers Nikola Zigic and Marko Pantelic, while midfield maestro and captain Dejan Stankovic will have to be denied the space he needs to conduct proceedings. Serbia will definitely be fired up to test the Germans.

Ghana's Prince Tagoe, center, is caught between Serbia's Nemanja Vidic, left, and Dejan Stankovic, right, during the World Cup group D soccer match between Serbia and Ghana at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Wasteful Serbia missed a number of chances before they were finally beaten by a late Ghana penalty

"Defeat has influenced our mood," said winger Milan Jovanovic. "We had expected to win the match against Ghana and we are all hurt by that failure. We missed out on our aim against an inferior rival and now we are in a position where we have to get as many points as possible against teams better than us."

Jovanovic, who is set to continue his club career at Liverpool after the World Cup, added that "If we want to upset Germany, we will have to show no fear and play the best we can, because we face a better team."

Serbia's line-up on Friday afternoon may be spruced up by the addition of wing playmaker Zoran Tosic, who will know the German team well. He spent the second half of this past club season at FC Cologne, and his quickness and range of talents - including a good cross and a proficiency at cutting inside when the opportunity strikes - tested may an outside back in the Bundesliga. Should Philipp Lahm or Holger Badstuber need help with his marauding runs, middle men Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira could be pulled out of position, opening up space.

Bayern Munich's Schweinsteiger is expected to be fit for action after suffering from a cold for most of the week while Khedira has no worries about being replaced in his holding midfield role after his outstanding contribution to the victory over Australia.

Khedira the young pretender blossoms into the main man

The young Stuttgart player, brought in to replace the injured Michael Ballack, has proven thus far to be an inspirational addition to the team. Starting the game against Australia as left-sided cover for Holger Badstuber, Khedira plugged the left channel to such an extent that the young Bayern defender was scarcely tested.

Australia's Luke Wilkshire, left, is challenged by Germany's Sami Khedira during the World Cup group D soccer match between Germany and Australia at the stadium in Durban, South Africa, Sunday, June 13, 2010.

Sami Khedira will have to be equally good - or better - against Serbia as he was against Australia

There were concerns that the 21-year-old midfielder would be too lightweight to fit into Ballack's commanding shoes but with Schweinsteiger cutting out threats on the right, Khedira shined as an all-action enforcer on the left as well as offering himself as an attacking option on the break. (And if his finishing touch was anywhere near as spot on as his tackles, he likely would have scored a couple of goals.)

Another impressive game for Khedira against Serbia could make all the difference for Germany when faced with the dangerous threat of Stankovic and his probing passes. If Khedira can cut out the Inter Milan man's threat before the German defensive line have to deal with any through balls to Zigic or Pantelic, then Germany will stand a great chance to mount swift counter attacks through Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller. Khedira's distribution, along with his interceptions, was faultless in the first game and Germany's attackers will be hoping for equally accurate service on Friday.

"We have to be ready to run against Serbia and display the same brand of football we produced against Australia," said Khedira. "This game is no foregone conclusion. The Serbians will be very fired up and dying to get something from this match."

The stakes are certainly high for Serbia after losing their first match, and Germany will have to be well-drilled and disciplined to withstand what is expected to be an attacking backlash from the men in red - who need to win to stay in the tournament.

Germany's young stars may have waltzed past Australia, but this could be less of a dance and more of a battle - albeit one with qualification from Group D as payoff.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann

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