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Don’t cry for me Argentina…

July 3, 2010

Bastian Schweinsteiger was magnificent -

…the truth is you were beaten by a far better side. A magnificent German performance and an atrocious defensive display saw to Maradona’s much-vaunted stars this afternoon.

A defence involving Di Micheles and Heinze was always suspect, as highlighted earlier – yet on this occasion right-back Otamendi was the main culprit during 90 minutes of Argentine incompetence.

Germany fired a warning shot across the bows of the competition as early as the opening weekend, and have carried that ability into the knockout stages. Anchored by Bastian Schweinsteier, the midfield superbly morphs into a potent attacking force when it wins possession and if the ball reaches Klose, Podolski or Muller it is only usually to enjoy a fleeting visit en route to the back of the net.

This is the third time in five the Germans have scored four, making them comfortably the tournament’s top scorers. They have been helped out by calamitous defending from Australia, England and Argentina, but create a fantastic number of excellent chances themselves. Podolski on the left was one of today’s star men, tormenting Otamendi and forcing the foul after two minutes which led to the opening goal. Once the free kick is conceded (or, if you please, won) you’d expect a reasonable level of strength or cunning would be required in order to convert an opportunity into a lead – particularly in a World Cup quarter final match. Yet all Thomas Mueller (excellent again today) had to do was move across his marker and get a slight touch to richochet the ball in off the goalkeeper.

Argentina’s defensive woes continued and the game could have been won by half-time. Heinze and Otamendi both looked out of their depth and in the second half the team’s spine ensured this appearance was replicated throughout the side. Goals two and three were both poked in from point-blank range after superb pass and move football. As Mark Lawrenson said on the BBC, it was, to an extent, basic stuff – yet few teams (all too few in this year’s competition) do it well enough to carve open teams so often.

Villa's teammates manage to get closer to him than most defences have -

Germany can look forward to a semi-final with Spain, who edged through after an unconvincing performance tonight. Paraguay were the better side for a lot of the game and should have taken the lead when Cardozo tamely shot at Casillas from the penalty spot – Piqué laughably protesting his innocence after dragging his man down. His teammates were eager to back him up, showing admirable solidarity considering most of them had been facing the other way at the time.

Spain’s Xabi Alonso then scored a penalty, which was retaken and saved, then should have had another opportunity when Fabregas was tripped going for the rebound. It was not to be and Spain had to wait until the 83rd minute when David Villa, as usual, was in the right spot to sidefoot the ball in off both posts for the winner. Like Klose, he has the ability to find space in the box at precisely the right time.

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