THE DAY REPLAYED: It is one of the great match-ups in world football. Germany v Argentina: whatever the occasion, whenever the time, is always a contest that resonates with historical significance and trans-continental fascination, pulsing with South American magic and Teutonic will.
Today in Nuremberg they met again in the FIFA Confederations Cup and could not be separated but irrespective of the result they were already through to the semi-finals. Likewise Tunisia and Australia knew they were out regardless of the outcome in Leipzig and it is the Africans who will head home the happier after a 2-0 victory, leaving the Socceroos at the foot of Group A.
The two group heavyweights have duelled in two successive FIFA World Cup finals (no similar pairing exists) and had faced each other only four months ago in Dusseldorf. It's amazing that tonight's affair should follow exactly those same lines, producing another 2-2 result. Once more it was Germany who had their noses in front, not once but twice, and Argentina who demonstrated an impressive depth of spirit and determination, the kind that has served the Nationalmannschaft so well over so many famous campaigns. Three of the four goals were pearls of delight but it is the home side who will feel more satisfied with the outcome, improving Jurgen Klinsmann's splendid record (now 14 matches in charge and only one defeat) and ensuring they approach the last four as winners of the section.
Argentina will not spill too many tears at finishing runners-up if that means they avoid a clash with Brazil in Hanover on Sunday. No disrespect intended to Mexico, who deservedly beat the Samba kings two nights ago, but Argentina would not want to meet their great South American rivals so soon after their recent FIFA World Cup qualifying game in Buenos Aires. If they have to meet in the Frankfurt final a week tomorrow so be it.
But Germany will fancy their chances of being there instead after Klinsmann's young side furthered their education with another solid performance. The second equaliser, struck 16 minutes from time by Esteban Cambiasso his first international goal took a little deflection in flight but it would be wrong to take anything away from the quality of the goals at least three of which would have graced a FIFA World Cup final.
Germany's first, following a free-kick, was made in Brazil because Kevin Kuranyi hails from Rio de Janeiro. There are a wonderful mix of influences milling around in a huge frame that stretches 189cm from the tip of his toes to the top of that distinctive head. Apart from his Brazilian roots there's also a strain of Hungary (grandfather) and Panama (mother). Oh, and Germany too (father).
It was another free-kick that enabled Argentina to equalise three minutes later, a touch of pure class that confirmed Juan Riquelme as one of the big players at this tournament. It was his third goal in successive games and his second award as Anheuser Busch Man of the Match. His delivery from the set-piece was sublime, confounding Timo Hildebrand who was hoping to show that Oliver Kahn does not have just one serious rival as Germany's number one.
There were many other wonderful things to behold, the touches and movement of Luciano Figueroa - the hat-trick hero of Argentina's second game - the hard running of the highly-rated Carlos Tevez, the attacking brio of Fabian Ernst early on, the penalty-box resistance of Per Mertesacker.
Add to that Germany's second goal which was finished off expertly by Gerald Asamoah following a gorgeous first-time lay-off by Kuranyi. The two will share a striking platform for Schalke next season following Kuranyi's recent move from Stuttgart. A storm warning here then for Bundesliga defences.
While the teams prepare for further battles to come and another possible meeting in the final Tunisia and Australia depart having contributed in no small measure to the high level of entertainment. It was the African champions who took the group's consolation prize and the chance to focus on Germany 2006 - their chances having improved during their time here with Morocco's failure to beat Kenya - with a win that came courtesy of a pair of Santos goals. It won him the Anheuser Busch Man of the Match award and consigned the Socceroos to a third successive defeat. They had rifled in five goals in their first two games; this time even John Aloisi (with four, still the tournament's leading marksman) had run dry.
One final note: no penalties today, a rarity for a tournament that has served up eight in the first eight games.