Germany 4, Argentina 0
Miroslav Klose celebrated his 100th cap for Germany with two second-half goals as the Horrible Huns ran riot in Cape Town. That’s 52 international goals in Klose’s career, and 14 in World Cup finals. Germany have hit Australia, England, and now Argentina for four goals apiece.
The first half was all about German sensation Thomas Muller. The 20-year old scored again in South Africa on 3 minutes as he drifted into the box unmarked and headed a free kick home. Germany started the game on fire and Argentina were glad to contain the damage and head to the locker room down only 1-0. Muller was busy with other half-chances, both as finisher and creator, but he foolishly handled the ball 35 yards from goal with about 10 minutes left in the first half and got himself booked. His play fell off after that: Muller realized that if Germany were to make the semis, he’d be suspended—and he let his head go down.
Argentina found the net in the chaos off the free kick awarded for Muller’s hand ball, but the goal was chalked off because at least four men were offside. I haven’t seen that many players offside all at once in ten years. While Germany looked really sharp for most of the first half, Argentina had only a few nice pieces of play. The Argentines struggled with the ball on long passes and shots, and the nicest bit of Argie footwork might have been manager Diego Maradona returning the ball with his wingtip shoe for a throw-in.
Argentina looked good early in the second half but couldn’t break through. Lukas Podolski fed Klose for a tap-in to make it 2-0 on 68 minutes and the Argies promptly quit. Bastian Schweinsteiger made a searing run six minutes later and fed Arne Friedrich for a toe-poke goal. The Germans attacked so lustily, that was centre back Friedrich’s first goal for his country in his 77th appearance—but he wanted the ball as much as anyone else and he got it. Centurion Klose, whose first goal moved him past Pele on the all-time World Cup list, banged in a fourth for Germany to finish matters off.
Where did Argentina go wrong? Some will blame the Jabulani ball. The commentator, John Helm, repeatedly pointed to the fact that Germany was the first quality side Argentina had played. (That’s the problem with the World Cup: a lot of crap teams.) For me, it boils down to the idiotic call to let Maradona manage the team. Maradona had zero managerial experience before taking this job. Anyone can “manage” Argentina over the likes of Peru, Bolivia, and at these finals Nigeria, South Korea, Greece, and Mexico. But it takes more skill to manage against a top-class team. I’ve coached under-15s, and while I’m hardly ready for prime time, even I know more about the task than Maradona does.
Spain 1, Paraguay 0
Spain rode an 83rd-minute videogame goal from David Villa to a quarterfinal date with Germany.
It was a ragged first half with few chances. Paraguay had a goal called back for offside, and while the offending player never touched the ball, he was interfering with play. Someday I’m going to write a 5,000-word rant on the offside rule, but the ghost of Bill Shankly ("If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be.”) assures me the ref got this one right.
Spain continues to start Fernando Torres even though Torres is not match fit. I’m a little surprised he would risk further injury that way, but I know that manager Vicente del Bosque always leaves that decision up to the player. (I’ll tell you a sad personal story about that someday.) Torres must think he’s good to go.
Torres came off on 55 minutes and the game entered the Twilight Zone. Gerard Pique put an armbar on Oscar Cardoza inside the Spanish box. Cardoza was sent to the spot to put Paraguay ahead. No dice: Iker Casillas saved and hoofed the ball downfield, and Villa went down cheaply in the Paraguayan area and Xabi Alonso scored from the penalty spot—but it didn’t count. Guatemalan ref Carlos Batres ruled that Spanish players encroached on the area before the kick, and it would need to be retaken. Justo Villar saved this time, and the ball was scrambled out of play, 0-0.
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The goal came as Andres Iniesta led a break, fed Pedro, and Pedro hit the post. The ball ricocheted out to David Villa, who then one-touched the ball off both posts and in. Spain used passing skills to keep the ball away from Paraguay the rest of the way. On Paraguay’s one half-chance, Sergio Ramos threw his face in front of the ball but got cracked with a leg instead. He should be good to go in the semi after being bandaged up in this one and continuing on.