Germany demolished Argentina and Spain beat Paraguay by one goal in a quarterfinal of extraordinary drama on Saturday as Europe took revenge on Latin America to dominate the World Cup.
The results mean three European sides and Uruguay will contest next week’s semifinals. South America had dominated the early stages of the World Cup, while soccer powers England, holders Italy and France were all humbled.
Germany’s 4-0 crushing of Diego Maradona’s side was the second time in two days that a European power had sent home one of the two Latin American favourites, following The Netherlands’ shock defeat of Brazil on Friday.
Spain had to fight long and hard against a tough Paraguay before Spanish hitman David Villa, the tournament’s top scorer, took the only goal — his fifth of the tournament — in the 83rd minute after substitute Pedro’s effort bounced off an upright.
Earlier both sides missed penalties in a frantic spell in the second half. Spanish keeper Iker Casillas saved Oscar Cardozo’s penalty and three minutes later Xabi Alonso’s first try for Spain was disallowed for encroachment. Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar saved the second.
In the semifinals Spain will face Germany, who handed Argentina their worst World Cup defeat in 52 years, outplaying them all over the pitch despite the presence of World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who was mostly stifled by defenders.
Germany and Spain will play in Durban on Wednesday while Uruguay face the The Netherlands on Tuesday in Cape Town.
The extraordinary World Cup shake-up came as millions of Africans continued to mourn the controversial elimination of their last hope, Ghana, by Uruguay on Friday.
The Ghanaians were robbed by a cruel, some said unfair, turn of fate from becoming the first continental nation to reach the semifinals after being beaten by Uruguay on penalties.
A Luis Suarez handball on the goalline in the dying seconds of extra-time was all that denied Ghana a place in the last four after they failed to convert the resulting spot-kick and then lost the penalty shoot-out.
Africans called radio phone-in shows to say Suarez had cheated, echoing the tearful comment by defender John Pantsil after the game: “It was not a penalty, it was a goal, because he (Suarez) was the last man on the goalline and he saved the ball with the hands.”
Emotions were naturally the opposite across the Atlantic where Uruguayan media celebrated “the hands of Luis Suarez”.
Tens of thousands took to the streets of Montevideo to cheer their best World Cup run in 40 years, although Suarez will miss the semifinal after being red carded for the handball.
The outcome sparked a new debate about whether Fifa should change the rules and introduce a system similar to rugby where referees can award a penalty try.
A broken Maradona said Argentina’s thrashing was the hardest day of his life.
“Today, close to the 50 years I will be on October 30, this is the hardest thing I’ve experienced …This was [like] a punch from Muhammad Ali. I have no strength for anything.”
Germany shocked the Argentines with a third minute goal from Thomas Mueller and scored three times in the second half — twice through Miroslav Klose and once from Arne Friedrich.
German coach Joachim Loew said he believed his young team could win the trophy for the first time in 20 years. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who enthusiastically cheered from the stands during the match, said: “It’s overwhelming, it’s a dream.”
Celebrations erupted throughout Germany and more than 350 000 fans watched at a fan park in Berlin.
Even the German players seemed stunned by the extent of their victory. “It’s insane to beat Argentina 4-0,” said Mueller, whose yellow card may mean he misses the semifinal.
Messi had been one of the most eagerly awaited players in Africa’s first World Cup but never scored during the tournament.
The successive defeats of Argentina and Brazil led British bookies to make Germany, Spain and The Netherlands joint favourites to win the tournament. – Reuters