Germany's record of progressing beyond the opening stage of World Cups is as pristine as their white shirts, but only victory against Ghana tonight will guarantee safe passage to the last 16. Yet while the pressure on Joachim Löw's young side is almost chokingly intense, Germany's coach insists they have the "confidence and inner conviction" to recover from last Friday's 1-0 loss to Serbia.
"When I talk to the players I do not get the impression they are nervous or worried," he said. "We've digested and worked on the defeat to Serbia and we know we have the potential, quality and ability to beat Ghana."
• Follow the Guardian's World Cup team on Twitter• Sign up to play our great Fantasy Football game• Stats centre: Get the lowdown on every player• The latest team-by-team news, features and moreWith Miroslav Klose suspended, Cacau will almost certainly play in what could be a rejigged 4‑4‑2. "Maybe I will change one or two positions, that is possible," Löw said. "But in attack I am leaning towards Cacau."
Löw knows it will not be easy against Ghana, who lead Group D with four points, ahead of Germany and Serbia on three and Australia with one. "We know that Ghana are Africa's last real hope in this tournament and they are a highly motivated team," he said. "I know it will be enormously difficult. This game will drain us not only mentally but also physically."
Ghana's coach Milovan Rajevac is set to recall his captain, John Mensah, in central defence, although his partner Isaac Vorsah remains a major doubt. Both missed the match with Australia through injury, while the Boateng brothers – Kevin-Prince of Ghana and Germany's Jérôme – would become the first siblings to line up against each other in a full international if they play. There may be a start for Sulley Muntari, who was reprimanded by the Ghana Football Association after an argument with Rajevac following the Australia game.
It promises to be an intriguing encounter but Rajevac is hoping it will be claustrophobically tight. "We will have to make sure that first we don't concede a goal," he said. "I am not saying we are going to get defensive; of course we will look to score but if it ends goalless, we are through and that is what I am focused on. I want what is best for Ghana in this situation."
Serbia, meanwhile, know victory against Australia in Nelspruit will take them through, although with their entire first-choice defence, as well as the striker Nikola Zigic and the midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic, on bookings, they must be wary of accumulating suspensions.
They face a side fired up by claims they have complained too much about the refereeing decisions. Their captain, Lucas Neill, believes the squad's exasperation has been exaggerated, however. "My quote was: 'We didn't get decisions going our way,'" he said. "That is not whingeing. That is just the way it is. Australia has never been a team that whinges, we don't want to be regarded as a team of whingers.
"You look at how we reacted when we went down to 10 men against Ghana – we took it on the chin. In the end we could have won the game. That is not a team that whinges."
If Ghana do not beat Germany, Australia will need to win by at least four against a Serbia side who have kept clean sheets in six of their past 10 internationals. It looks an impossible task, but if Pim Verbeek's side can match the feistiness of their captain their hopes may not be so forlorn.