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Mensah braced for Australia

RUSTENBURG, June 18 – Ghana captain John Mensah is not expecting Australia to throw caution to the wind as they seek to revive their World Cup campaign by beating the Black Stars here on Saturday.Australia were punished for playing an open game against Germany in their group D opener and the 4-0 defeat has left the Socceroos facing virtually certain elimination if they lose to Ghana at the Royal Bafokeng stadium.

Ghana, in contrast, are on a high after a 1-0 win over Serbia that has given them a great chance of reaching the last 16, as they did in Germany four years ago.

"The tournament couldn’t have started much better for us, winning our opening game against a tough Serbian team," said Mensah.

"But now we’re looking to go on and we’re totally focused on Australia.

"I didn’t watch all of the Australia v Germany game but I watched little bits. Germany created a lot of chances but I don’t think that’s the way Australia are going to be against us. I think it’s going to be different."

Mensah, who is hoping a loan move to Sunderland from French club Lyon will be made permanent after the Word Cup, also revealed that he is finally feeling fully fit after a season blighted by recurring injuries.

"There was a problem in my back that caused problems in my calves and the backs of my legs, but they have a good physio, and I have my own physio out here with me now at the World Cup," he said. "But I’m fine now, feeling good.

"We got to the second round in Germany four years ago, but things change in football and I cannot prophesy that we will do that again, but we are all determined and focused on our mission."

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Mensah is one of only a handful of veterans of the 2006 campaign in what is the youngest squad at the tournament.

But what Ghana lack in terms of experience is compensated for by the quality of the emerging stars, according to the captain.

"The young players have surprised us," he said. "There were many of us older players weren’t at the Cup of Nations (where Ghana finished runners-up) but the young players went there and they demonstrated their quality and did well and we’re all proud of what they did."

Mensah also credits Ghana’s coach, Milovan Rajovac, with instilling a greater tactical awareness in a squad that has come to trust the Serbian.

"The coach is good," he said. "He does his tactical thing and we do what he says and we all believe if we do that we will be successful.

"This compact play, that’s what he wants and it’s what we do and we all believe this compact play will help us move forward."

Australia will be without their most potent goal threat, Tim Cahill, who is suspended as a result of the red card he received against Germany but will return for the final group match, against Serbia in Nelspruit on June 23.

Midfield anchor Vinnie Grella will also miss Saturday’s match, as a result of a knee injury, with Carl Valeri expected to start in a line-up featuring several other changes from the side that was overrun by Germany.

KEY TO MATCH

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This contest could be all about energy levels as one of the oldest squads in the tournament takes on the youngest. Australia’s backline looked distinctly weary against Germany. But will the combination of some fresh legs and Aussie pride be enough against a Ghana side riding high after their win over Serbia.

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