Loew targeting fitness

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JOHANNESBURG, June 22- Coach Joachim Loew says fitness will be the key for his Germany team when they take on Ghana on Wednesday with their World Cup survival at stake.The Germans need to get their campaign back on track after their shock defeat to Serbia and a loss to Ghana would mean they fail to qualify from the World Cup’s group stages for the first time in their history.

Joachim Loew’s side got off to the ideal start when they hammmered Australia 4-0 in their opening game, but after striker Miroslav Klose was sent off, the Serbs brought them down to earth with a 1-0 defeat.

Klose, the top scorer at the 2006 World Cup, is suspended for the Ghana clash at Johannesburg’s Soccer City which will decide the winner of Group D and only a win will guarantee the Germans a place in the Round of 16.

Five of the squad are on a yellow card and a second for any of the quintet will see them suspended for the last 16 match, should Germany progress.

Loew expects a tough, physical encounter against Africa’s Black Stars who are undefeated in Group D after a draw with Australia and a win over Serbia.

"Ghana are fast and can play well on the counter, they don’t shy away from one-to-one duels as they are strong, they have players who can put in fantastic sprints," said the 50-year-old.

"The general tempo against Ghana will be higher than Serbia, the Serbs were a bit slow out of the blocks and they had a draw in mind with only one forward.

"It will be quicker, but fitness is written with a capital ‘F’ in the Germany squad and we can cope with it."

Brazilian-born Cacau is expected to start as the lone striker with Lukas Podolski, who missed a penalty against Serbia, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller as an attacking midfield.

Germany manager Oliver Bierhoff has already said there will be no vendetta against Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, whose scything tackle on Michael Ballack in the FA Cup final ruled the German skipper out of the World Cup.

Boateng, who is a key midfielder for Ghana, has apologised repeatedly to Ballack, but his half-brother Jerome, who is in the Germany squad but is unlikely to play, still refuses to speak to him over the incident.

"It was all I could do (to apologise)," said Kevin-Prince.

"I was late with the tackle. I apologised twice while he was still receiving treatment on the pitch, this is the third time."

Jerome has called for calmer minds to prevail, though he still has no intention of talking to his half-brother.

"He remains my brother and I wish him the best, but at the moment we have nothing to say to each other, that happens in other families as well," said 21-year-old Jerome, who is set to make his English Premier League debut next season with Manchester City.

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac expects to have his first-choice centrebacks back as captain John Mensah and fellow defender Isaac Vorsah both missed Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Australia through injury.

Rajevac revealed that both experienced defenders might have been able to play against Australia if he had been willing to risk them missing out on the Germany game.

Mensah believes Germany will be feeling under intense pressure after the defeat to the Serbs punctured the optimism generated by their demolition of ten-man Australia.

"I don’t think there is pressure on us," he said. "They will probably have more pressure because they are favourites.

"We all know Germany has a good team, but we believe we have a good team as well. We have to keep things tight, stay compact and I’m sure we can win the match."

KEY TO THE MATCH

With a relatively inexperienced squad, the game will be decided by whether Germany can control their nerves.

With striker Miroslav Klose suspended, the task of breaking down the Ghana defence falls to an attacking midfield led by Lukas Podolski who failed to score against Serbia despite a string of chances.

Germany will be tense and are playing for their World Cup survival, while Ghana need just a point to make the Round of 16 and a draw would see them through.

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