Argentina and Germany may have already secured safe passage into the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2005 but any game between these respective two-time and three-time winners of the FIFA World Cup is always a great occasion. "The clash with Argentina will be a huge challenge for us, you can expect a great game," said Germany captain Michael Ballack.
The South Americans made it to the semi-finals with victories over Tunisia (2-1) and Australia (4-2), while the Germans clinched their place by seeing off Australia (4-3) and Tunisia (3-0). With six points each, the two countries share first place in Group A, although Germany top the table by virtue of having scored one more goal.
Germany's extra goal scored means that Argentina have to beat the hosts to take top spot in the section. A draw would be enough for Germany to stay top, although after Mexico's victory over Brazil, the 'prize' for finishing first could well be a semi-final against the world champions.
"Argentina always want to win, and they will show it in the game against Germany, in order to finish first," said the hat-trick hero of Argentina's win against Australia, Luciano Figueroa, making clear that his side has every intention of going for the victory in this prestige fixture.
The record between the two teams is as close as the gap at the top of Group A. They have met nine times, with four wins for Argentina, three for Germany and two draws, and a cumulative goal difference of 10-10. Only once has a match between them been decided by a margin of two goals their very first meeting at the FIFA World Cup finals in Sweden in 1958, which Germany won 3-1.
The two nations have met twice in a FIFA World Cup final and here again the honours are even: in 1986 Argentina defeated Germany 3-2 in Mexico City, but four years later Germany gained revenge by beating Diego Maradona's team 1-0 in Rome.
The last encounter between the two sides, on 5 February this year in Dusseldorf, characteristically ended in a 2-2 draw, with Hernan Crespo scoring twice for the visitors and Torsten Frings and Kevin Kuranyi notching the German goals. While the AC Milan striker is not here to trouble Germany this time, unlike in Dusseldorf the home nation can call on the in-form Ballack.
Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to do without Arne Friedrich, who picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and a one-match suspension against Tunisia. His Argentine counterpart Jose Pekerman has his full roster of players to call on and given the fairly uniform level of quality throughout his squad, he may offer a few surprises in the starting line-up.
A tightly fought contest seems certain for the final match in Group A, as a new chapter is written in nearly half a century of rivalry. And who knows, perhaps the two countries will be facing each other again a week later in Frankfurt. After all, it would not be the first time they have met in a final.