Germans rout Argentina in Cape Town
Miroslav Klose scored twice to move into a tie for second on the all-time World Cup scoring list, and Thomas Mueller and Arne Friedrich added goals to give Germany a resounding 4-0 victory Saturday in the World Cup quarterfinals. As flashbulbs popped, the Germans hugged and high-fived each other before walking around the edge of the field, saluting their fans.
Injured captain Michael Ballack came down to the field, watching from the bench as his teammates celebrated.
"It was absolute class," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Hard to argue with that.
Germany will play the winner of Paraguay-Spain in the semifinals Wednesday in Durban. This will be Germany's third straight trip to the semis and its 12th overall - nobody has more.
It was a surprisingly meek end for the Argentines, whose dominant run had given fans hope this might be a team capable of reaching the final for the first time since 1990, when Diego Maradona led them on the field. Now the coach, Maradona took a slow walk to midfield after the game, hands jammed in his pockets, while several of his players broke down in tears.
"To lose like that is very painful," forward Carlos Tevez said. "We played badly and sometimes when you make mistakes you go home."
Argentina and Germany have had a testy relationship since trading World Cup titles in back-to-back finals 20 years ago, and it's been downright ugly lately.
After Germany eliminated Argentina on penalty kicks four years ago, also in the quarterfinals, the two teams exchanged punches and kicks in a scuffle. A few team officials even got involved in the scrape.
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Germany didn't wait for the game to get its digs in this time, with Bastian Schweinsteiger on Wednesday accusing the Argentines of lacking respect for opponents and referees. Captain Philipp Lahm chimed in a day later, essentially calling Argentina a bunch of hotheads.
The trash talking appeared to be carefully orchestrated, intended to ignite Maradona's infamous temper and distract his team. Or, perhaps, to put the refs on notice.
Turns out, Germany didn't need the head games.
Argentina had been one of the tournament's darlings, with Maradona's every move causing a stir and superstar Lionel Messi showing you don't need to score to be sublime. The Argentines rolled into the quarterfinals as one of only two teams to win its first four games - the Netherlands was the other - and had been so powerful they never trailed.
No wonder there was a star-studded crowd on hand at Green Point Stadium, with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mick Jagger, Leonardo DiCaprio and South Africa's own Charlize Theron all spotted in the VIP seats.
But Germany showed that Argentina doesn't have the lock on flair in South Africa.
Its spacing, pace and flat-out stingy defense made the Argentines look out of sorts all afternoon. The Albiceleste didn't get their first shot on goal until the 33rd minute, and any time they appeared on the verge of making something happen, the German defense shut it down.
It was enough to make Maradona clutch his fists in agony, looking as if he was physically pained. The sight of the German offense couldn't have made him any happier.
Germany has now scored four goals in three of its five games, and routed England and Argentina by a combined score of 8-1. Those numbers are better suited for PlayStation than the World Cup.
"They did what we knew they were capable of doing," Tevez said.
Klose, making his 100th appearance for Germany, was simply masterful in the second half. With Germany clinging to a 1-0 lead and unable to get that all-important insurance goal despite several chances in the first half, Klose showed the skill that's made him one of the most prolific players in German history.
In the 68th minute, Lukas Podolski crossed the ball from just beyond the box, and Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero and defender Nicolas Burdisso were powerless to stop it as it sliced between them. Klose got control of the ball in front of the goal and effortlessly tapped it into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Klose let out a roar and slid along the goal line as his teammates ran to congratulate him. Merkel stood up and applauded, accepting congratulations from South African president Jacob Zuma.
And Klose wasn't done. In the last minute of regulation, Klose volleyed in a cross from Mesut Oezil from no more 10 yards. Klose did a somersault while Merkle beamed and the German fans kicked off the postgame party.
"What he has already shown is of the very highest level," Loew said. "It is entering history."
The two goals give the 32-year-old Klose four in South Africa, tying him for the tournament lead. He now has 14 in three World Cups, tying him with German great Gerd Mueller for second place on the all-time list. Brazil's Ronaldo holds the World Cup record with 15 goals.
Klose also is second to Mueller on Germany's all-time list with 52 goals. Mueller scored 68.
Argentina: Sergio Romero, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Heinze, Nicolas Otamendi (Pastore, 70), Maxi Rodriguez, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria (Kun Aguero, 75), Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez.
Germany: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Arne Friedrich, Jerome Boateng (Marcell Jansen, 72), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira (Toni Kroos, 77), Thomas Mueller (Piotr Trochowski, 84), Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose.