Monday 20 January 2020

Devastating Germans show no mercy to Maradona’s romantic World view

Argentina 0 Germany 4

So much for South American supremacy. The continent will be represented in this week's semi-finals but not by the countries they expected after Argentina followed Brazil out of the World Cup in Cape Town yesterday.

Argentina were out-played and out-thought by a German side which may be remodelled but has lost none of its ability to suck the life from its opponents.

They were helped by an early goal which allowed them to sit deep and squeeze Lionel Messi, who spent the afternoon looking for team-mates who were not there.

Instead it was Germans who announced themselves as their side scored four times for the third time in the competition.

Thomas Mueller gave his side an early lead and then picked up a booking which rules him out of Wednesday's semi-final [although he still shook the referee's hand as he came off] but it wasn't until the second half that Germany transformed the game from a tense quarter-final to a humiliation.

All four goals came down the German left but it took 20 minutes in the second half for Germany to score a second and then they turned the screw. Miroslav Klose scored twice -- taking his total in World Cups to 14 -- and Arne Friedrich's goal was sandwiched between them as Argentina wilted.

In reality, they began as they ended, a defensive shambles. Both Diego Maradona and Joachim Loew had named unchanged sides from their convincing second-round victories but any questions about the merits of Germany's win against England were quickly answered.

Maradona was not alone in wondering how much could be learned from the German victory given the state of Fabio Capello's side but surely Argentina could have learned a bit more than this.

As they had against England, Germany began with the more incisive attacking. Mesut Ozil was prominent and Argentina were immediately ragged.

Their right-back, Nicolas Otamendi, gave the first suggestion of his unpleasant afternoon to come when he pulled down Lucas Podolski after a couple of minutes.

Germany might be reshaped and youthful but they would have always fancied superiority at set-pieces and Argentina's defence was a mess from Bastian Schweinsteiger's free-kick.

Otamendi let Mueller get across him while Sergio Romero seemed to be expecting the free-kick to sail straight into his hands. Once Mueller had got ahead of Otamendi and made contact, Romero was beaten.

Loew will be hailed as a master tactician but the early goal allowed Germany to advance the most straightforward of plans.

They crowded out Messi, gambling that there was nobody in the Argentina side, not even Carlos Tevez, who could trouble them if they stayed deep and shut players down.

Their dominance forced Messi to come deeper and deeper for the ball and although one sweeping move was started by him when he picked up the ball just outside his own box, Germany were happy to see him there.

Loew's side dominated the midfield, although Argentina's midfield was non-existent. Javier Mascherano may have hustled and won the ball back but he was not alone in not being able to keep it. Maxi Rodriguez and Angel Di Maria were worse, while Otamendi and the rest of the defence were appalling even if they hadn't conceded four goals.

Klose should have put Germany further ahead in the first half when Mueller found him 12 yards out but he scooped his shot over the bar.

It took Argentina nearly half an hour to have a shot and minutes later Gonzalo Higuain turned Friedrich and brought a good save from Manuel Neuer.

Shortly after that, Mueller was penalised for handling the ball and harshly booked which rules him out of the semi-final.

He took a moment to reflect on this and then resumed normal service with Schweinsteiger just behind him, picking up everything and prompting.

Germany gave Argentina possession but they could do nothing with it. When four Argentineans were rightly flagged for offside, Gonzalo Higuain, who had knocked the ball into the net, turned and abused the linesman. Tevez did the same moments later and it was clear that Germany were getting to their opponents.

It was no wonder as they found no space. In the second half, Argentina began with all the possession but were left to shoot from distance. During a rare flowing move which ended with Maxi knocking the ball back to Tevez, Per Mertesacker blocked it full in the face. Moments later, he blocked another from Messi.

With that industry, Germany just needed to finish them off, even if Argentina will feel that the first 20 minutes of the second half was their opportunity. Mueller's involvement was no surprise. He had been pulled to the ground but kept the awareness to put Lucas Podolski through. That was all it took and Argentina were flat. Klose was free in the middle and he waited for the pass which came and he tapped in.

Six minutes later, the game was up. Schweinsteiger, looking like the gambolling player he used to be rather the restrained general he has become, skipped around the Argentinean defence, although, given that Higuain was the final man he skipped by, it wasn't so much a defence as a rabble, and pulled it back for Friedrich to score from five yards.

Maradona threw Javier Pastore on for the humiliated Otamendi and then his son-in-law Sergio Aguero but there was no response.

In the final minute, Germany combined beautifully again. Schweinsteiger found Ozil and he floated a perfect cross from the left --naturally -- for Klose to caress into the goal.

Only Germany and Uruguay among the semi-finalists have won the World Cup before. Germany are carefree and an attacking force but they're not ready to abandon all traditions just yet.

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