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FIFA World Cup: Argentina v Germany - Quarterfinal Preview

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

Neither of these teams were supposed to be in the Quarter-finals. Germany’s loss to injury of Michael Ballack and Argentina’s faltering qualifying campaign had fans from both countries not expecting performances to match their mutual elite pedigree.

For Germany it shows what can be achieved when the weight of expectation is removed and youth gets a chance to express its fearless confidence. Joachim Loew’s side has shown some uncertainty on defence and that they can have trouble backing up a top draw performance. Yet that is not a factor as long as they are banging the ball in the net at the other end as often as they have.
For Argentina who on paper had the most lethal strike force of any of the teams going in to the tournament and needed only to find some resolute defence to mount a challenge. That was on paper though and there was a lot of justified discontent in Argentina over a lacklustre qualification and Maradona’s eccentric ways.
‘On paper’ power of squads and pre-tournament form might get used to pick the favourites and set betting odds but when it comes to a high pressure tournament like the World Cup all that counts for nothing. The aging, jaded squads of Italy and France were humiliated in pool play. England sneaked through unconvincingly to the last 16 but were badly exposed for lack of pace against the energetic Germans.
I hope that far right-wingers in Germany who have spent years ranting against immigration forget their racist rhetoric and enjoy supporting a national team that has benefited extensively from ethnic diversity. With 11 of its 23 players having alternative choices for countries to represent, Germany has successfully shed its steady robotic style and incorporated some of the flair of its imports. 
Momentum, team spirit and luck become key ingredients for continued progression at the World Cup. Teams divided among themselves will seldom prosper. England were not a happy camp. French woes were well documented and Italy wasn’t much better.
It has been clear from the beginning that the Argentineans were a good unit off the field in South Africa. Maradona has left his run late but finally found a formula that is working. Off-field chemistry and on-field success is a powerful cocktail. The Netherlands is the only other team with a similar kind of momentum, although there is a gulf in personnel in comparison to Argentina.
When I talk about luck I mean refereeing decisions. Germany’s let-off with Lampard’s goal that wasn’t noticed by the officials and Tevez’s awful offside goal against Mexico are just the latest in a long line of officiating howlers that highlight once again what a bunch of technophobe’s FIFA are.
So for Germany and Argentina it is a Quarterfinal clash and the chance of a Semifinal showdown probably against Spain. Both have momentum and seemingly happy squads. Germany has a goal difference so far of +7 and Argentina +8. Germany’s loss to Serbia their only blemish. There is little to separate them in their overall head to head record. Argentina has won 8 to Germany’s 5, with 5 draws. Argentina has scored 25 goals to Germanys 23. In the two World Cup Finals they have faced each other the honours are shared.  
As long as Argentina can keep a close watch on the German counterattacks they should come out the victors. The youthful core of Germany is untested at this level. After beating an average English team Argentina might come as a rude shock to the Germans. With Rooney shut down and playing at times quite deep, Lampard and Gerrard were forced to shoot from range, which was well covered. Argentina have a number of threats to shut down and the Germans will be had pressed to cover them all for 90 minutes.
The ace in Argentina’s pack is Maradona. Always there or thereabouts at club level during his career he rose to another level when playing for his country in the World Cup. So far at this tournament his positive antics on the sideline have seen him get more TV coverage during game time than many of the players on the field. This is his stage and he clearly loves being here again. As a former winner who would do whatever it took to win, his mystique grows with every Argentine win in South Africa.
Germany’s best hope is to get an early goal then frustrate the Argentineans into a few studs up late challenges as the pressure to equalize mounts. A 10 man Argentina will be ripe for the picking on the break.
Either way it should be one of the matches of the tournament to date. Both sides are well worthy of their place in the Quarterfinals and the winner of this clash must end up at close to the shortest odds available to claim the title. But this is the World Cup and anything can happen at any time. Head butts, wonder goals, sending off’s. That is part of the magic of the tournament and why it has surpassed the drug tainted, bloated Olympics as the No.1 Sporting event on the planet.  

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