Germany 4 Argentina 0
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Don’t mess with Germany, on or off the field.
Miroslav Klose scored twice to move into a tie for second on the all-time World Cup scoring list, and Germany backed up its pre-game trash talk with an emphatic 4-0 rout of Argentina in the quarter-finals Saturday. The dominant display — along with Germany’s two other four-goal games — should demand the attention of everyone still playing in South Africa.
“It was absolute class,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Hard to argue with that.
Argentina had been one of the tournament’s darlings, with coach Diego 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 quarter-finals as one of only two teams to win all its games — the Netherlands was the other — and had been so powerful they never trailed.
No wonder a star-studded crowd was 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 overwhelmed the Argentines, and shut down Messi in the process. The reigning FIFA world player of the year leaves South Africa without a goal, and was in tears after the game.
“He played a great World Cup,” Maradona said. “And I tell you, to see Messi cry in the dressing room, whoever says that he doesn’t feel pride for his shirt is stupid.”
Maradona was equally devastated. He walked slowly to midfield with his hands jammed in his pockets when the game ended, and couldn’t muster any energy or enthusiasm at his news conference.
“I’m as disappointed as all Argentines,” said Maradona, who cast doubt on his future as national coach. “To see my country lose a football match is very hard for someone who has worn the shirt.”
Germany will play Spain, a 1-0 winner over Paraguay, in the semifinals Wednesday in Durban. This will be Germany’s third straight trip to the semis and its 12th overall — nobody has more. But the three-time champions haven’t won a title since 1990.
Maybe that’s why their celebration was so low-key — the Germans are hoping for something bigger in a week. Players hugged and high-fived each other before walking around the edge of the field to salute the crowd. Even a post-game visit from Merkel was taken in stride.
“It’s important that we should not emotionally overreact,” Loew said.
There was no such restraint from the fans. Several hundred stuck around Green Point Stadium for more than a half-hour after the game, dancing, singing and banging on drums.
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 quarter-finals, the two teams exchanged punches and kicks in a scuffle. A few team officials even got involved in the scrape.
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.
“Are you joking?” Maradona said when asked if his critics in Argentina might be satisfied with the loss. “This is a country where you live and breathe football. I don’t think that any will be happy when the team loses 4-0.”
Germany’s spacing, pace and stingy defence 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 defence 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 offence 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.
“To lose like that is very painful,” forward Carlos Tevez said. “We played badly and sometimes when you make mistakes you go home.”
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, slicing it between Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero and defender Nicolas Burdisso. Klose got control of the ball in front of the goal and effortlessly tapped it in for a 2-0 lead.
And Klose wasn’t done. In the last minute of regulation, he volleyed in a cross from Mesut Oezil from no more than 10 yards, then broke out his trademark somersault. It hasn’t been seen in months after a tough season at Bayern Munich, and German fans were no doubt thrilled to have Klose’s swagger back.
“I am just pleased that we are in the semifinals,” Klose said, “that was our target.”
The two goals give the 32-year-old Klose four in South Africa, one less than Spain’s David Villa. 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.