Argentina and Germany advance to the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005 but it will be the South Americans who enter the knockout stage with the greater confidence after a convincing 1-0 in Emmen on Saturday.
Neri Cardozo's 43rd-minute strike was the only goal of a one-sided game in which 17-year-old striker Lionel Messi gave notice of his incredible talent. Argentina, who finished in second place in Group D, now face Colombia on Wednesday.
"It was our best performance so far," Francisco Ferrara told reporters. "We played as a team, worked the ball well and we were well-deserved winners. In fact there should have been more goals."
On a pitch bathed in glorious sunshine, Argentina began brightly. The slight figure of Lionel Messi had the first attempt on goal after six minutes but his snapshot from the edge of the D flew just over. The albiceleste clearly found the Emmen air to their liking and German goalkeeper Rene Adler had to pull off a spectacular save three minutes later after Pablo Zabaleta had found Gustavo Oberman unmarked in the six-yard-box.
Ferrara's team were finding each other with ease. Germany's captain, who needed attention after his earlier save, had to be at full stretch to tip over Neri Cardozo's 20-yard half-volley on 26 minutes and then watchful as Messi, eight minutes later, attempted one of his cheeky top-spinning lobs.
The Barcelona boy was irrepressible. Two minutes later Cardozo fired over from the edge of the box after more Messi trickery. The Europeans were unable to get beyond the half-way line as Oberman skewed another great chance wide after more neat build-up play.
But the goal had to come and it was made by the 17-year-old. Lightning quick, Messi burst into the box and unselfishly squared the ball to Cardozo who lashed home from 12 yards (1:0, '43).
Finding no way past an Argentine backline screened superbly by Juan Manuel Torres, Michael Skibbe's side were reduced to shots from distance.
The South Americans continued to be incisive with their short passing and Cardozo almost got his and their second on 50 minutes, shooting inches wide after good work from Oberman.
Messi's movement was causing all kinds of problems. Twice he went close, delicately chipping onto the roof of the net in the 59th-minute, then, two minutes on, pouncing on a clearance and forcing Adler into another superb fingertip save.
On as substitute, Michael Delura fired a free kick a yard over but even when Torres was sent off for his second booking with ten minutes to go, Germany, who were virtually assured of qualification going into the match, could not find any inspiration in the attacking third.
"Our first half performance was not up to scratch. We created nothing in attack," said Skibbe after the match. "We need to develop our own game and play over 90 minutes instead of the last 20."