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FIFA World Cup: Germany drub Argentina 4-0 to reach Semi-finals

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bastian_schweinsteiger1.jpgIt was supposed to be too close to call, yet in the end the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town witnessed a ruthless annihilation of one of the strongest sides in the FIFA World Cup by one of the youngest. Nobody in their right mind would have placed a wager on the scoreline we saw: Germany 4, Argentina 0. Miroslav Klose scored a brace, while Thomas Muller and Arne Friedrich added one a piece. What we saw just could not have been predicted.

It's not often that two sides meet in consecutive World Cups at the same stage. With Germany having squeaked through to the Semis on their own turf four years ago, many observers believed Argentina would come into the match intent that it was payback time. Matches between Argentina and Germany are of great worldwide interest, for the two teams always tend to produce some of the more exciting and entertaining moments at every tournament. And the importance of the occasion was great enough for the likes of German chancellor Angela Merkel, South African President Jacob Zuma and UEFA President Michel Platini to be among the hordes of dignitaries in attendance.

Fortunately for all, neither side came into the match with suspension or injury issues, which permitted both Diego Maradona and Joachim Loew to put out their strongest sides. Neither side made any changes, personnel or tactical, to the team that started the Round of 16 ties. Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi started out just behind Gonzalo Higuain in a 4-3-2-1 formation, as they've been doing during the duration of the World Cup. Lukas Podolski managed to shake off a injury to join Mesut Oezil and Thomas Muller in an attacking midfield role, with Miroslav Klose as the lone striker.

The Germans were off to a dream start, taking the lead in under 3 minutes. It all started when Nicolas Otamendi brought down Bastian Schweinsteiger down the German left flank. The Bayern Munich midfielder whipped in the free kick and Thomas Muller easily went past his marker, his header hitting Sergio Romero's right foot before going in. A year ago Diego Maradona famously stormed off from a post-match press conference when the two sides met for a friendly, because he hadn't recognised Muller as a German player despite the youngster having just played 67 minutes on his international debut. Muller, considered one of the tournament's star performers, now holds the record for the fastest goal at this World Cup.

phillip_lahm.jpgGermany almost added another goal twenty minutes later. Muller easily gained possession deep into Argentine territory, raced into the penalty area and pulled the ball back to Miroslav Klose, who had stopped his run to deceive the central-defensive pair of Demichelis and Burdisso. Fortunately for the South Americans Klose's shot went over the crossbar when he really should have scored. Argentina worked hard to get a foothold in the match, and managed to put the ball in the back of the net through Gonzalo Higuain. But the assistant referee rightly disallowed the goal, penalising Carlos Tevez for being offside in the build-up.

The score remained unchanged as the sides headed into the dressing rooms at half-time. Argentina had shown signs of getting back into the game, with Lionel Messi working hard to get involved more and more. But the young German side were impressive throughout the first half, cutting out the Argentine attack's supply in midfield with the back four particularly well organized to handle Messi's and Tevez's movement. The early pace of the game had fizzled out, as the Germans sat back and allowed Argentina to control the possession.

Argentina continued their ascendancy in the second half, with Angel Di Maria narrowly missing the target from 20 yards and some resolute defending on the part of the Germans snuffing out any danger if the Argentinians got any closer. But, with both sides misplacing quite a few passes or conceding fouls, the game had become scrappy with a lot of breakages in play. Surprisingly, the Argentines seemed to lack any urgency in attack, relying on their opponents to make a mistake instead of taking the game to them. And the German's made them pay big time.

First Miroslav Klose doubled the lead on 68 minutes. The Germans played a number of passes in front of the Argentine penalty area, before Muller released Podolski. The Cologne star crossed to Klose, who was lurking on the edge of the 6 yard box, and he simply had to walk the ball into the net to score.

per_mertersacker.jpgOnly minutes later the hapless Argentine defence allowed Schweinsteiger to simply waltz his way towards goal after Germany played a short corner. Having made his way past 5 defenders Schweinsteiger passed to Arne Friedrich to add a third goal. The happiness on Chancellor Merkel's face said it all: Germany were through to the Semi Finals of a major tournament yet again.

Argentina tried to grab a consolation, even bringing on Sergio Aguero, but the Germans managed to rub salt into their wounds. Mesut Oezil broke through down the left with the Argentine defence outnumbered, and chipped a pass to Klose who made no mistake. The Germans scored a 4th goal in a match for the third time in the 2010 World Cup, and Klose's brace brought him level with the legendary Gerd Muller on 14 World Cup goals, only one behind Ronaldo's record of 15.

Germany now head to the Semi-finals high on confidence, where they would meet the victor of tonight's other match between Spain and Paraguay. The manner of their win was brutal: Argentina were till not so long ago the bookies favourite to lift the Jules Rimet trophy on July 11th, and yet they were beaten in each and every department. Notably, the Germans were defending high up the pitch even when they had a 3 goal lead, ensuring they never let the Argentines find any route back into the game. Unfortunately for them, opening goal scorer Thomas Muller will miss the semis after picking up a second caution, but that should hardly dampen their belief. Their strength lies in their organisation and comfort in possession, along with a brilliant understanding of the game and maturity beyond their collective years.

Argentina will meanwhile need to start all over again. Facing their first real test in South Africa they struggled to look like a world class side that many believed them to be. Just as everyone thought that there may actually have been a method to Maradona's madness as manager, his side's performance tonight would again raise doubts over his abilities as coach. Despite having such wealth of attacking talent in his side Argentina struggled to create any chance of note. Gonzalo Higuain was largely non-existent in the match, his only real appearance coming when he was flagged offside. Yet Maradona persisted with the Real Madrid striker instead of opting to change things until going two goals down. Lionel Messi failed to make a reasonable impression, and few would have thought that the diminutive forward, who had been in such hot form at Barcelona, would leave South Africa without getting his name on the scoresheet even once.


Argentina (4-3-2-1): Romero; Burdisso, Demichelis, Heinze, Otamendi (Pastore 70'); Mascherano, Di Maria (Aguero 75'), M. Rodriguez; Messi; Tevez, Higuain

Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Friedrich, Mertesacker, Boateng (Jansen 72'), Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Khedira (Kroos 78'); Ozil, Podolski, Muller (Trochowski 78'); Klose

Final Score: Argentina 0-4 Germany (Muller 3', Klose 68', Friedrich 74', Klose 89')

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Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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