Germany – Germany enter the groups as favorites, but are by no means guaranteed advancement. The loss of Michael Ballack is being made a bigger deal than it truly is. This isn't 2002. The loss of your captain will hurt any team, but Ballack is not what he was in tournaments past. He seems to find his best for his national team, but Bastian Schweinsteiger should deputize well in that role. He moved to the middle for Bayern Munich and is playing the best football of his career. Germany are stacked with talent and toughness. Look for Lahm and Boateng to get forward from the outside defense positions. Theirstrikers are plentiful, but all have questions going into the World Cup, Podalski – poor season for Cologne, Klose – poor form for Bayern, no longer a starter, Muller – inexperience, Gomez – inability to perform in the big games, especially for the nation team.
Player to Watch – Mesut Ozil – Another candidate for Breakout Player of the Tournament, especially given more opportunities in the absence of Ballack. He came onto the scene in last year's Under 21 European Championships and is the key figure for Werder Bremen. Think of him as the German Cesc Fabregas.
Australia – The Socceroos now Qualify in Asia, which should odd some game experience to their cause. The Aussies have a number of strong players playing in some of the best leagues in Europe, but there is a lack of young, upcoming talent. The golden generation of getting old and this could be the last World Cup for most of them. But it isn't all gloom, Australia will take a lot of experience into South Africa. Their run last World Cup showed they can play with the best and leaders Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer will have eyes on the second round.
Player to Watch – Mark Bresciano – The lack of a target man may hurt Australia and Bresciano will have to provide some goals in this tough group. They cannot rely solely on Cahill and Kewell and set pieces.
Serbia – This is the first World Cup for the solo Serbia. They floundered in 2006 with Montenegro, but have high hopes after winning their qualifying group which featured France. They have a number of strong young players anchored by the strong defensive pairing of Vidic (Man U) and Ivanovic (Chelsea). Strong down the wings, Serbia has the same problem as Australia, with the lack of consistent scoring from the men up front. Looking poor in warm up games.
Player to Watch - Milan Jovanovic – Up and coming star at Standard Liege, Jovanovic was the leading scorer for Serbia in qualifying. He is a triple threat (shoot, pass, dribble) down the wing and will need to find the net for Serbia.
Ghana – The Black Stars are probably the second best African team in the tournament. (I wish the Black Stars would play the All Whites) They are solid at every position and have a style that hurt teams in 2006, beating US, Czechs, and outplaying Brazil for much of their second round game. They loss of Michael Essien will be huge, though, much bigger than the loss of Ballack for Germany. Essien plays great for Chelsea, but is just a beast for Ghana. His vital slack will have to be picked up by Appiah and Muntari in the center of the field.
Player to Watch – Asamoah Gyan – The first ever Ghanian player to score in the World Cup, Gyan is still young at 24 years old. He should be the focal point of a strong attack and will need to overcome discipline problems which have plagued him in the past. Look for his good form from the French league and the African Cup of Nations to continue.
Prediction – Group D is one of the most even, exciting groups. I believe anything can happen. All games should be fun and entertaining. Germany are favorites, but could lose to any of the three other teams. Maybe not a group of death, but I'm excited for pretty much all of these games. I do think Germany will have the strength and depth to go through on top, but I am hoping that there is still all to play for on the final day of group D play.