Having lost their Group G opening clash against USA early this week, Ghana desperately need victory against Germany tonight to stand a chance of progressing to the next round of the Fifa World Cup.
It is by no means a new phenomenon for brothers to play alongside each other at a Fifa World Cup, with Argentinians Mario and Juan Evaristo as well as Mexicans Manuel and Felipe Rosas and Rafael and Francisco Gutierrez all making the trip to the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay in 1930.
Over the years they have been followed by Fritz and Ottmar Walter, who propelled Germany to victory in Switzerland in 1954, Bobby and Jack Charlton, who won the competition with England in 1966, and Robert and Niko Kovac, who both represented Croatia at the 2002 World Cup Korea/Japan tournament before taking on the role of national team coaches ahead of this summer’s showpiece in Brazil.
However, it is much more unusual for two brothers to play for different national teams. The Scottish siblings John and Archie Goodall rewrote the record books when they became the first brothers to don the colours of different countries.
Neither pulled on the navy blue jersey of Scotland, though, with John electing to represent England and Archie pledging his loyalty to Northern Ireland. Other examples include Massimiliano (Australia) and Christian Vieri (Italy) as well as Paul Pogba (France) and his two brothers Florentin and Mathias (Guinea). But none of the above have ever lined up on opposing sides at a World Cup finals.
Kevin-Prince and Jerome Boateng hit the headlines for this very reason when they faced each other on 23 June 2010 in South Africa. Jerome took to the field wearing the white of the German national team, while Kevin-Prince featured for the Black Stars. The match, which the European side won 1-0, marked another first in world football.
Second showdown in Brazil
History is set to repeat itself at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with Germany and Ghana locking horns once again when their Group G clash gets underway in Fortaleza tonight.
“I’m really looking forward to the match and the fact that both Boateng brothers will be on the same pitch,” said the 27-year-old Kevin-Prince. “Of course, it’s a special experience to face your own brother at the World Cup and it’s not the first time either.
There’s always a lot of excitement surrounding a World Cup, but this will be a particularly special moment for us both,” added Jerome.
The pair share the same father, who hails from Ghana, but have different mothers. They both grew up together in the German capital Berlin, where they progressed through the youth and amateur ranks at Hertha BSC.
And 25-year-old Jerome still has fond memories of those early years: “I will never forget when we played alongside each other at tournaments or when we became German champions together. And whenever one of us was fouled, the other would always come running in ready to protect him.”
The brothers both went their separate ways after their time in Berlin. Kevin-Prince, who normally sits in the hole behind the strikers but can also fill in at centre-forward, played for a range of clubs including Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan before making the move to the Bundesliga with Schalke 04. Jerome, who prefers to play in central defence but is equally at home on the right or left, enjoyed spells at Hamburg and Manchester City before Bayern Munich eventually came calling. Operating at the heart of defence, he helped the Bavarians to a treble in 2013.
Mixed feelings in the family
The pair, who have often locked horns at club level, are now set for their second showdown on the international stage. And with Kevin-Prince playing in attack and Jerome lining up in defence, it is more than likely that they will come up against each other directly. No wonder the fixture is a source of mixed feelings in the family.
Their father is adopting a neutral stance and has his fingers crossed for the pair of them, while both mothers are supporting their respective sons, as Jerome explains. However, the family motto remains “may the best team win, just as it was in South Africa”.
Kevin-Prince confirmed this and added: “Ultimately, it’s not important for our parents who wins. What counts for them is that we give our absolute best, remain injury-free and look back on our own personal performances with nothing but satisfaction.”
Younger brother Jerome may be more content with his own performances in family fixtures to date, having often emerged victorious over Kevin-Prince when the two have clashed. They do not just compete on the pitch though; their rivalry extends to a whole host of disciplines.
When asked in which of these disciplines he still has the upper hand over his elder sibling, a smile emerges on the face of the 2013 and 2014 Bundesliga champion: “There are a few things actually. Basketball, table tennis and tennis all come quite naturally to me now. And I can still beat him on the PlayStation too.”
The two-footed defensive linchpin believes his brother will play a key role if Ghana are to leave an impact in Brazil and is full of praise: “He isn’t scared of anything and is very confident on the pitch. He always keeps going, even when things aren’t going his way. And he quickly adopts a positive attitude after negative experiences.”
It is these characteristics which he demonstrated four years ago that make Kevin-Prince one of Ghana’s danger men in his brother’s eyes.
Jerome believes the Black Stars have a “dangerous team” despite their 1-2 loss to USA early in the week. These words are music to the ears of Kevin-Prince, who is convinced his team is stronger than in 2010.
Similarly, Kevin-Prince has a lot of respect and praise for his brother’s team. “I also think that the German national team can go far in this tournament. It’s always a pleasure to watch Germany. They have top players with outstanding quality in every single position.”
Jerome is also convinced by his side and his team-mates’ abilities especially after they routed Portugal 4-0 in their Group opener.
Bouyed by the confidence he has acquired through his success with Bayern Munich in recent times, Jerome has carried high expectations to Brazil: “I hope we can make it into the final and then manage to win it.”
Undoubtedly, the brothers will both be entirely focused on the task at hand tonight though, with Kevin-Prince revealing: “I promise every team that Ghana faces that I will do everything in my power to win – no matter whether I’m lining up against my own brother, my father or my mother.”
But despite the rivalry they are still family and hope for the best for each other, as Kevin-Prince went on to emphasise: “Of course, I’d be absolutely delighted if both teams could go a long way.”
And no matter how far the two teams progress and how many matches they play at the 2014 World Cup, one thing is for sure: their second group game will live long in their memory.