The rampant exuberance of Germany’s youth tore apart a hapless Argentine defense with great panache. A brace from Klose and a goal apiece from Muller and Friedrich made sure that Die Mannschaft qualifies for the semi final of the tournament for the 12th time in its history.
Germany vs Argentina – it could hardly get bigger than this. These two teams have already met in twice in a World Cup final – the 1986 and 1990 editions. Argentina won it in 1986, their last glory, and Germany got even in 1990, their last World Cup win as well. The two teams also faced each other in the last World Cup’s quarter-final, with Germany prevailing in that ill-tempered game in the penalty shoot-out. Argentina snatched the honors back when the teams met in an international friendly three months ago with a 1-0 win, when Higuain’s strike separated the two sides.
So far in this World Cup, the two teams have played flowing football. Argentina had scored ten goals in four matches, conceding only two; Germany scored nine goals and conceded two goals as well. So statistically speaking, there was not much to choose between the two teams. The atmosphere of the match was gripping, as members of both sides had already started playing mind games against each other.
The match started off rather woefully, as Klose fouled Mascherano in a heated exchange. But before Argentina could settle down, in came a rude wake up call for their defense. Germany won a free kick near the left edge of the Argentina’s penalty box. Schweinsteiger’s perfectly delivered cross met an atrociously unmarked Müller, whose faint touch was enough to confuse Sergio Romero, who in-turn deflected the ball into the net for Germany’s first goal of the night.
But the Mannschaft weren’t finished yet. The ball seemed to be glued to the German players’ legs, and Germany had the better of the chances during this period. Just before the half-hour mark, Müller was again called into action; intercepting a howler of a pass from the Argentine defense. He bulldozed himself into the penalty box and cleverly passed the ball to an unmarked Klose, drawing Demichelis towards himself. But the German striker, in his 100th international match, failed to score from an opportunity that a player of his stature should have buried.
After the half hour mark, Argentina finally started to get into their groove. On the 35th minute, Müller was cautioned for a handball, right in front of the German penalty box. Replays showed that before brushing Müller’s arm, the ball rolled from the arm of Messi. Nevertheless, the official’s decision shut the door on Müller’s chances of playing in the semi-final, as he was already carrying another yellow card from the Ghana match.
Argentina started the second-half in a much more threatening fashion. Messi, Tevez, Higuain and Di Maria were swapping positions and connecting with each other beautifully, and their off-the-ball movements were catching the German defense off-guard more often than not. The German defense was living dangerously by opting to sit back and letting Argentina attack, probably looking to hit on the break just like they did in the game against England.
This time they had to wait a little longer, but the breakthrough happened again the in the same mould. Just after the hour mark, Germany choked Argentina on the break. Podolski and Schweinsteiger combined with each other to reach the Argentine penalty box, and then Podoslki passed the ball to Müller, who was marked properly for the first time in this game. But this did not deter Müller from sliding down and putting in an inch perfect through ball to the onrushing Podolski inside the Argentine penalty area. Podolski made no mistake; he slowed his pace, looked up, and caressed the ball to an unmarked Klose, who tapped-in for his third goal of the tournament.
After going down by two goals, Maradona sacrificed Otamendi for a more offensive player in Javier Pastore. This was probably the opportunity the Germans were waiting for, because they went on a rampage in every counter attack from then on. Five minutes later, Schweinsteiger leap-frogged past Di Maria, Pastore and Higuain, kept running towards the near post, and after drawing Romero towards himself, passed the ball onto Friedrich. The defender buried it from close range to give Germany an unassailable lead in the game.
The game had ended as a contest, there and then. The rest was a mere formality. One minute from full time, Özil, who was largely kept quiet by Mascherano and Rodriguez, piled on the misery for Argentina. His intelligent run from the left of the Argentine penalty box, and a measured pass to an unmarked Klose, made amends for his earlier miss. That was Klose’s fourteenth goal in the World Cup finals, equaling the record of the legendary German striker Gerd Müller, and one short of record holder Brazilian Ronaldo’s tally of fifteen goals.
Lionel Messi tried his best to come away with one goal, till the very last minute. However, it was not Argentina’s day. The final whistle meant Germany celebrated their twelfth appearance in a world cup semi final – a record, and Maradona started reflecting on his managerial career.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Bastian Schweinsteiger(Germany)
The ball magnet of Bayern München masterminded the German victory. He snatched away the ball from the legs of Tevez, Messi, Higuain and Di Maria on numerous occasions. He kept check of Messi’s threat with wonderful composure. Along with Khedira, he broke down most of the Argentinian attacks much before they could reach the German box. His well measured free-kick gave Germany the lead in the match, and his delightful run down the left flank to the Argentine penalty box resulted in the penultimate ritual of the Argentinian demise. All in all, he just held the German midfield together, brilliantly.
TheHardTackle’s REFEREE REPORT CARD: Ravshan Irmatov(Uzbekistan) – Grade: B+(Good)
The Uzbek referee had a good match. He did not hamper the flow of the game, and ensured discipline on the field.
Argentina Line-Up: Sergio Romero, Nicolas Otamendi(Javier Pastore 70′), Nicolas Burdisso, Martin Demichelis, Gabriel Heinze, Maxi Rodriguez, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria (Sergio Aguero 75′), Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain
Manager: Diego Maradona
Caution: Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano.
Germany Line-Up: Manuel Neuer,Philipp Lahm, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng(Marcel Jansen 72′), Sami Khedira(Toni Kroos 77′), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller(Piotr Trochowski 84′), Mesut Özil, Lucas Podolski, Miroslav Klose
Manager: Joachim Löw
Caution: Thomas Müller
Scorers: Thomas Müller(3′), Miroslav Klose(68′, 89′), Arne Friedrich(74′)