Kick-off: Saturday, 3rd July – 3:00pm
Venue: Green Point Stadium, Cape Town
World Cup Quarter-Final
Argentina will be appearing in their sixth quarter-final on Saturday, as Diego Maradona prepares his charges for another heated battle with a former foe. Four years ago in Germany, at this very same stage of the tournament, Argentina crashed out of the 2006 FIFA World Cup after suffering a 4-2 loss on penalties to the Germans. It was a defeat which left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Argentine players after the game and it’s one to this day they won’t forget in hurry. But they have the chance to make amends, to rewrite a little bit of history by returning the favour should they justify the favouritism shown in them by bookmakers.
An embarrassing qualifying campaign has almost been completely forgotten after a sensational start to the finals. Some would argue that the South Americans haven’t yet been tested, at least not by a team worthy or likely of winning the crown, but an immaculate record of fourth straight victories is hard to ignore nevertheless. Nigeria (1-0), South Korea (4-1) and Greece (2-0) were all swept aside as Argentina topped Group B, while even the technically gifted Mexicans had no answer to the all-out ferocious attacking flair of the Argentinian’s, who ran out 3-1 winners in a contest where Higuain bolstered his scoring tally to four goals and Carlos Tevez bagged a confidence boosting brace.
With four games played, Argentina lead the scoring charts with 10 goals and it’s not terribly difficult to see why they’ve enjoyed so much striking success when you look through their attacking ranks. However, the one stand out performer has been a player yet to find his scoring way in Barcelona ace Lionel Messi. Despite helping himself to 47 goals last season, as well as claiming the rights to the FIFA Player of the Year accolade, Messi doesn’t have a single goal to his name but remains one of the stars of the tournament. At times he’s irresistible, almost untouchable from a defenders point of view. His jinxing little runs in between midfielders and defenders have left us in awe, while he’s had a hand in just about every Argentina goal thus far. The Germans haven’t been bombproof at the back so far but have been reliable enough to suggest another magical display is needed from Argentina’s rising star if they are to avenge that Germany 2006 loss.
Germany will undoubtedly provide Argentina with their biggest examination of the tournament so far, with there being no room whatsoever for their big name players to hide away or go missing. It would be fair to say that Argentina have had it easy up till now, they’ve used their generous Group B fixtures to rebuild some previously faltering confidence and have steadily grown into a side capable of challenging for the title. Even so, there are flaws in Maradona’s set up, defence especially, as for starters they don’t have a stable right-back while the partnership of Martin Demichelis and Walter Samuel has looked safe enough without actually facing anything of note. There’s no doubt their forwards have goals in them, with Messi playing the role of assistant the likes of Higuain and Tevez could and have been filling their boots. However, we’re at a stage, and against the type of opponents where the entire team needs to perform to the high standard expected of a World Cup winning team and that’s something we aren’t 100% sure Argentina can do or have the capacity to do.
Its been barely been a week since the Germans claimed their first significant scalp of the tournament, a crushing 4-1 defeat of England in the Round of 16 last Saturday in Bloemfontein, and they’re out to do it all again on Friday when they take on the dangerous Argentina in Cape Town in what is surely going to be an electric contest between two giant international footballing country’s. The Germans, though, well they have the more experience having played in 14 previous quarter-finals and are gunning for their twelfth semi-final appearance, and it’s statistics like that which make their huge odds of around 12/5 (3.40) to beat Argentina without the need of Extra-Time or penalties very appealing.
After beating their old foe England last Saturday, what was a resounding and comprehensive win for this still maturing German team, the Germans have done a fair bit of gloating and to say this current crop are lacking in self belief of inner confidence would be a laughable comment. The mood inside the Germany camp will have rocketed since Saturday, and rightly so, as Germany were sensational against the English, completely dominant as they overpowered the Three Lions. Moreover, the four goals they smashed past David James in the England goal (Klose, Podolski and Muller x2) put them without another strike of Argentina’s tally of 10 goals fore the tournament. For a team which looked very solid and far from flamboyant, that’s a mean feat and there’s no saying they won’t score more, starting with Argentina on Saturday.
It is now easy to forget that Germany have already suffered defeat in South Africa, when losing 1-0 to Serbia in Group D, with their humbling of England overshadowing all of their efforts previously. However, you would be foolish to ignore some of the flaws that were clearly evident in the German system beforehand; the fact Mertesacker isn’t the quickest or most agile, that Schweinsteiger isn’t the most natural of centre-midfielders nor is he at 100% condition, as well as Miroslav Klose looking jaded and the rest of the German forwards not looking up to the task. Other than that, Germany are a beast of a team. Far from it, as England were well below par in Bloemfontein last weekend and had it not been for some magical display from their Turkish born star, Mesut Ozil, Germany would have struggle for creative ideas and probably wouldn’t have racked up as many goals as they have. In our opinion, Germany are reliant upon Ozil, who at just 21 years-old is liable to crumble under the pressure.
There’s no doubt Germany have faced the stiffer of the two routes to the quarter’s, which should serve them well, but there’s also little questioning of the lack of talent and match winners inside the Germany team. Granted they have several hard-working individuals, some grafters, but they’ll need some architects against teams like Argentina and if Mesut Ozil doesn’t shine, who will? It’s a lot to ask if you ask me, especially as their defence is more than capable of being breached on more than one occasion.
Match Verdict: Argentina to WIN – 2.10
We’ve been hugely impressed with Argentina so far, sweeping aside every opponent en route to this tantalising quarter-final date with the Germans – the team which knocked them out of the competition four years ago. Lionel Messi is dazzling us once again, displaying the sort of form which seen him pick up the FIFA Player of the Year award last season as well as 47 goals in 53 games for Barcelona, and when you have a player which can make the impossible possible like Messi can, it’s terribly difficult to oppose the South American outfit, especially as they have to deadly strikers alongside the world’s greatest player right now in Ginzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez. Too much attacking class on offer from an Argentina perspective, backed up by the fact that should Germany score at some stage you would highly fancy Argentina’s chances of grabbing one back.