Clash of World Cup titans

It does not come much bigger than Germany vs Argentina—a match-up steeped in World Cup history that will bring the host country to a standstill on Friday.

The quarterfinal clash in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium will evoke memories of 1986 and 1990, when West Germany and Argentina faced each other in successive World Cup finals.

A Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2 in 1986 but four years later the Germans gained revenge with a 1-0 win in Rome.

That was the last time Germany defeated Argentina—with the South Americans enjoying two wins since—and their current coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a member of the victorious 1990 team, hopes to change that in Berlin on Friday.

“Argentina are a great team but we can compete with them and I am sure we can beat them,” Klinsmann said.

“From what I have seen of the other countries in this tournament we do not need to hide from anyone.”

Hosts Germany have won four matches in a row to surge into the last eight and kept three consecutive clean sheets in the process.

Klinsmann’s strikers are also firing on all cylinders with Miroslav Klose leading the goal-scoring charts with four while junior partner Lukas Podolski is on three.

With fan power driving them on, Germany believe a fourth World Cup title is possible, but Argentina share the same ambition.

“Against Germany, we have to win—however we can,” Argentina captain Juan Pablo Sorin said. “We’re playing a contender to win it, and all of the fans will be against us.

“Let’s hope we can surprise them with the experience of having played more important games in the last several years.”

Without competitive matches for two years many thought Germany would be rusty. However, they look anything but, and have delighted the home fans with attacking football you would not normally associate with German teams.

It is an intriguing contest between Germany’s fit, spirited, young team of relative unknowns and Argentina’s young exciting forward line, complemented by old heads such as Roberto Ayala and Sorin.

Playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme is seen as the man that makes Argentina tick but Germany say he will not be man-marked.

“We cannot make the mistake of concentrating on one player as Argentina have a lot of players that can decide the game,” admitted Germany’s defensive midfielder Torsten Frings.

“I cannot imagine running around after Riquelme for 90 minutes.”

Javier Saviola, Hernan Crespo, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi are just four Argentines with the potential to turn the game on its head.

Despite failing to beat a recognised top nation since October 2000—when they defeated England 1-0 in the final match at Wembley Stadium—Germany are full of confidence.

“We do not fear anyone.
Argentina are a top-class team and deserve our respect, but we are confident of beating them to reach the semifinal,” said captain Michael Ballack.

Argentina are well aware that Germany have scored goals inside the first six minutes in three of their four games at the finals and midfielder Maxi Rodriguez said his team would be ready for a fast start.

“Germany won’t allow us to settle down or give us a moment’s freedom,” Rodriguez said.

“That means Argentina will look to knock them down right from the start.”

Germany and Argentina met twice last year—in February for a friendly and then at the Confederations Cup in June—and on both occasions the score was 2-2.

On this occasion there will be a winner—even if it takes extra-time and penalties.—AFP

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