Germany have dumped Diego Maradona’s defensively light Argentina out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup yesterday with a phenomenal 4-0 victory over the South American side.
Miroslav Klose moved, well, closer to the Brazilian Ronaldo in terms of most goals ever scored in World Cups by bagging a brace of goals in a match where Germany exploited Argentina’s right-hand-side of defence weaknesses to score three second half goals.
Argentina had their work cut out for them within three minute of kick off. After giving a free kick away just to the right of their area – an area of the pitch that was to become a thorn in their flank throughout the match – a sloppy Argentine defence allowed Thomas Müller to run unchallenged towards the near post and get the slightest of touches to Bastien Schweinsteiger’s dangerous looking inswinging free-kick.
The ball brushed Romero’s foot – the inert Argentina goalkeeper seemed to be caught wrong footed, but will surely feel he could have done better – before Müller wheeled away in delight at scoring his fourth World Cup goal in only his seventh ever appearance for his country.
Despite this early goal, Argentina were unable to work many clear-cut chances in the opening 45 minutes. Instead, is was Germany who looked like scoring next, as great work from Müller saw him play a delightful square ball to Klose in the box, but the German striker – uncharacteristically for him in a World Cup match – blazed the ball high over the bar from around ten metres.
Argentina grew increasingly frustrated, and a number of beefy tackles were flying in across the pitch, primarily from the men in light blue and white, but it was the unfortunate Müller who picked up the yellow card which meant he would miss the semi-final his goal looked like it might secure.
Müller was booked for a deliberate hand-ball despite Messi – whom Germany were tending to double-up against – appearing to handle just prior to the touch from the German’s arm. In any case, worse fouls – including a more blatant hand ball from an Argentinian arm earlier in the match – led to the feeling that Müller’s distraught look was, given the circumstances, a more than understandable response.
Half time came and passed with the scores at 1-0 to Germany.
Argentina came out and produced their best spell of the match in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but Germany always looked to have them well contained, and there was little penetration from Argentina’s flair players, who appeared a little short of ideas when their play-maker, Messi, was successfully marked out of making much impression.
Instead, it was Germany who threatened by storming forwards in numbers when they nicked the ball as it was passed laterally around their area.
It was one such move that shifted this match well and truly into Germany’s grasp as, following those fifteen minutes of pressure, the ball was worked forwards up the left-flank to Podolski who easily beat his man before playing a square ball – which cut out the goalkeeper too – to Klose to score the easiest goal of his international career with a two touch tap-in.
This goal seemed to knock a little of the stuffing out of Argentina, as all of their pressure thus far has resulted in only two fairly easy saves from Neuer and a great Mertesacker block (with his face) from Carlos Tevez.
If Argentina were down following Klose’s 67th minute goal, they were certainly out just over five minutes later when Sweinsteiger weaved and jinked down the same left hand side of defence, well inside the Argentine box, before reaching the by-line just metres outside the goal and cutting back to Friedrich who side-footed into the empty net. Three nil. Game over, with 16 minutes still to play.
Miroslav Klose added to his tally in World Cups with a smart 89th minute volley to score the best goal of the match following a first-time Mesut Oezil cross.
Klose has now scored 13 World Cup goals, one behind Ronaldo in the all time chart – with one (perhaps two) games remaining in his long international career.
Germany were fully worth their win – and probably were every bit as dominant as the score-line suggests, too, as Argentina showed the sort of defensive inadequacy that Maradona’s squad selection had hinted at when announced. At the first stern test, Argentina were found badly wanting, and were dumped out without ceremony by a ruthless and perfectly prepared Germany side.
Germany are showing just what good management can achieve: by producing a well-balanced squad of players who know exactly what each of their jobs are, Joachim Löw has shown the World what it takes to win matches at a major tournament. Flair players playing the same role throughout a tournament are easy to cut off and, if you do what Maradona did, and announce, pre-tournament, that “everything must go through Messi” then you should expect a well drilled and defensively smart side like Germany to take those words to heart.
Germany look to be doing their homework well – they identified and exploited both England’s and Argentina’s defensive frailties perfectly. Spain, whom they will face in this week’s more difficult semi-final, have exploitable flaws in their defence too.
Free-scoring Germany certainly have enough weaponry to score at least once against Spain. If they can shut down David Villa and Iniesta, while Fernando Torres continues his current spell of – by his standards – quite miserable form, they could well have enough self-belief to roll this very together team machine into next Sunday’s Final. Germany have all the momentum with them – and the confidence of a nation who always goes deep into tournaments – that suggests it is they, not Spain, who are now favourites to not only win their Semi-Final, but also to lift the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy next week.
But there is plenty of football left in this competition that has seen more upsets than any World Cup in living memory – perhaps being favourites would be a disadvantage for Germany in 2010?