Muller 3, Klose 67, 89, Friedrich 74
Germany destroyed Argentina to storm into the semi-finals of the World Cup. The Germans scored four goals for the third time at this year’s tournament, with Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose (twice), and Arne Friedrich getting on the scoresheet.
Germany were ahead within three minutes thanks to Muller’s fourth goal of the tournament. Bastian Schweinsteiger swung in a free-kick and Muller flicked it low past Sergio Romero with his head at the near post. Schweinsteiger had a pop from 25 yards three minutes later but fired well over. The pressure was all from the Germans early on and Lukas Podolski’s shot was deflected wide after 13 minutes. Klose should have doubled the lead after 24 minutes but he blazed over the bar from 12 yards after Muller had burst into the box and squared following Gabriel Heinze’s slip. Manuel Neuer made two saves in a minute after 33 minutes, first holding Angel Di Maria’s shot then diving low to claim Gonzalo Higuain’s effort at the near post. Podolski fired just wide of the far post from 25 yards after 39 minutes before Lionel Messi skipped past Schweinsteiger and blazed well over in first half stoppage time.
Di Maria was inches away from equalising three minutes after the break, flashing just wide from 25 yards. Per Mertesacker blocked a fierce effort from Carlos Tevez with his face five minutes later after Maxi Rodriguez had chested down a cross. Tevez shot straight at Neuer from 30 yards after 63 minutes before the keeper dealt unconvincingly with Higuain’s shot from an angle. Germany were two goals to the good after 67 minutes. Muller slipped Podolski through in the left of the area and he squared across the face of goal for Klose to walk the ball into the net. The game was sealed after 74 minutes through Friedrich’s first goal for his country. Schweinsteiger waltzed into the box past two defenders and cut back for Friedrich to prod home from close range. There was still time for Klose to add a fourth, coolly volleying home into the bottom corner after Mesut Ozil dinked a cross to him with two minutes to play.
Muller’s third minute goal was a result of poor defending and goalkeeping from a set-piece. There was no solid line of defenders, allowing the German forwards to stand unmarked in onside positions. Nicolas Otamendi was the closest marker to Muller but the German winger was free to make his near post run and get his head to the ball first. Otamendi was hesitant in going with his man, and that split second advantage was all that Muller needed to claim a free header. Romero should have done a lot better in the Argentine goal. He failed to come and claim the ball at the near post but had moved into no-man’s land, leaving a big gap for Muller to head into. He was rooted to his spot as the ball came past him, failing to move a limb as the ball brushed off him and in.
Otamendi had a very poor game, and was culpable for the second goal too. Having overzealously given away the free-kick that led to the opening goal, he again dived in, leaving Podolski free in the area to receive Muller’s pass. The response in the centre was not much better, with both the covering defender and Romero going for the ball at the near post which left Klose free in the middle as Podolski picked him out. Otamendi plays as a centre-back for his club side and has not benefited from Diego Maradona’s decision to play him out of position at right-back. An inexperienced player deployed out of his comfort zone will get found out quickly at international level and he was destroyed by the Germans. If Maradona stays in the job, he must quickly find a specialist right-back having unsuccessfully tried winger Jonas Gutierrez in the role. His whole defence was a mess against Germany, but it was undermined from the kick-off by the weakest link on the right.
If there has been a better player at this World Cup than Schweinsteiger then he does not automatically spring to mind. Having been a wide midfielder up until Louis van Gaal switched him in mid-season to central midfield for Bayern Munich, he has taken to his new role with mature relish. Alongside Sami Khedira, he has screened the German defence brilliantly but has been so much more than just a holding midfielder. His closing down all over the pitch has been relentless and he has been superb in possession. Not only has he picked his passes well, but he has got forward when possible and had a big hand in two of the goals today. With many of the tournament’s biggest names doing little to aid their profiles, Schweinsteiger has surely elevated himself to the upper echelons after a fine season for Bayern and an even better World Cup for Germany.
Spain will be the most likely opponents for the Germans in the next round unless Paraguay can spring a surprise tonight, but the semi-final will be a much closer game than people may have predicted before the competition. Germany have continuously performed above expectations, roaring past England after taking advantage of a large slice of luck before completely outplaying Argentina who had been billed extensively as the favourites. Spain are the masters of keeping possession but the Germans have demonstrated that they can pass the ball around at pace with ease and they are as good a team as any on the break. The Spanish will still be the fancied team but there are only so many terrific German displays that can go ignored before they are accepted as more than just a Turniermannschaft.