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GERMANY 4, ARGENTINA 0

Germany vs. Argentina: Germany routs Argentina in World Cup, 4-0

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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 4, 2010

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA -- Argentina's long-deferred dream of taking its place among the World Cup semifinalists lasted all of three minutes Saturday, shattered by a German squad that was superior in every way.

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Thomas Mueller scored the tournament's quickest goal to date, three minutes into what was expected to be the most compelling of the quarterfinals. And Germany rolled on, shutting out the previously unbeaten Argentines, 4-0, with a dazzling display of speed, fearlessness and technical superiority to advance to a Wednesday semifinal against Spain, 1-0 victors over Paraguay.

Germany's Miroslav Klose scored twice, in the 68th and 89th minutes, to bring his total World Cup goals to 14 -- one shy of all-time leader Ronaldo. After the last, on a cross by Mesut Oezil, the 32-year-old Klose performed an Olympic-caliber somersault as flashbulbs lit up throughout Cape Town Stadium, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel exulted in her nation's triumph and celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron and soccer-mad Mick Jagger looked on.

It was the latest installment of one of international soccer's more storied rivalries. Argentina, led by the heroics of captain Diego Maradona, defeated Germany in the final of the 1986 World Cup. Germany responded in kind in 1990. And the nations' 2006 World Cup quarterfinal ended with an exchange of blows after Germany prevailed on penalty kicks. In the days leading up to Saturday's reprise, well-placed verbal jabs were traded.

But Argentina was never in the fight, a step slow on defense and off target and out of sync on offense.

The loss brought the highly anticipated World Cup debut of Lionel Messi to a close without the diminutive striker, FIFA's 2009 player of the year, managing a single goal. Messi wept in the locker room afterward, apologizing for his play, according to Maradona, appointed coach of Argentina's foundering national team in November 2008.

And Maradona didn't hide his disappointment in failing to lead the squad to the World Cup's final four -- particularly after the team had silenced critics by sailing through their first four matches with ease.

"This is the toughest moment in my life -- having so many good people, so many good professionals, so many great players," said Maradona, 49, whose life has had an inordinate share of difficult moments. "This is really like a kick in the face. I have no more energy for anything."

That said, there was nothing for Maradona to blame: No single tactical decision to regret, no egregious officiating decision to rail against. Argentina was simply outplayed and outclassed, start to finish.

"Nobody hurts more than we do," Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze told reporters afterward. "It has been years. We all knew what we had to do. Today, we were not able to do it from a football standpoint. Once in my life, I wanted to write the last headline. And now, you guys will get to write it. And that hurts."

Unlike teams that use the first half to size up their opponents, Germany had a game plan from the start and attacked it with a vengeance.

As German Coach Joachim Loew analyzed Maradona's squad, he saw an imposing presence up front, with Messi flanked by Carlos Tévez and Gonzalo Higuaín, and an experienced defense. But Loew detected gaps in between, he explained later. And he told his young German players that they could exploit those gaps with their speed on counter-attacks, taking advantage of the fact that Argentina's forwards didn't typically scamper back to help on defense.


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