The last two quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ could hardly have been more diametrically opposed, with Germany’s comfortable 4-0 victory over Argentina contrasting with Spain’s nervy 1-0 reverse of Paraguay. The two victorious sides will now meet at Durban Stadium on Wednesday in a rematch of the UEFA EURO 2008 final, which the Iberians won.
Die Nationalelf will be hopeful of reversing that result this time around, after shining again against La Albiceleste at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. Joachim Low must have studied videos of Inter Milan’s 3-2 aggregate win over Barcelona in last season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals, because his defenders never stopped harrying Lionel Messi and barely allowed the diminutive genius a touch of the ball. Without their tricky No10 running the show, Argentina’s probing came to little and they left themselves cruelly exposed to German counter-attacks.
Low’s men gave another stunning demonstration of attacking football and by the end of it Miroslav Klose had scored twice, putting him level with compatriot Gerd Muller as the second-most prolific player in FIFA World Cup history on 14 goals. He now needs just one more strike to move alongside Brazil’s Ronaldo at the top of the all-time scoring chart.
Attentions switched to Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium in the evening for a tense encounter between Spain and a valiant Paraguay team that gave the European champions plenty of problems. Los Guaraníes had shipped only one goal all tournament prior to this quarter-final and they held firm until the 83rd minute, when La Roja finally opened the doors to their first FIFA World Cup last-four berth since 1950. The irrepressible David Villa made the difference once again to edge ahead in the race for the adidas Golden Boot on five strikes.
It could all have been so different, though, had Paraguay’s Oscar Cardozo buried his penalty in the 59th minute. As it was, his attempt was saved by Iker Casillas and Spain won a spot-kick almost immediately at the other end, only for goalkeeper Justo Villar to deny Xabi Alonso. It was the first time since Argentina’s 6-3 win over Mexico in 1930 that both teams managed to miss a penalty in the same FIFA World Cup game.
Goal of the day
Paraguay 0-1 Spain, David Villa, 83 mins: Spain may have been controlling the encounter, but their rhythm was somewhat sluggish until Xavi fed Andres Iniesta with a delicious back-heel from close to the centre circle. That freed his midfield colleague to bear down on goal and, looking up, he picked out Pedro on the edge of the area to his right, inviting the winger to unleash a low drive that pinged back off Justo Villar’s right-hand post and fell ominously at Villa’s feet. The in-form marksman quickly curled in a shot that ricocheted off both uprights before nestling in the net for a goal that bore the stamp of Barcelona from start to finish.
One to remember
With 79 minutes gone between Argentina and Germany, the latter were well and truly cruising thanks to a healthy three-goal lead. Their opponents were obliged to throw men forward in attack but when a move broke down, Germany captain Philipp Lahm collected the ball with a piece of deft control in his area, cut inside, and burst forward on the break. Even finding time to adjust his armband as he moved downfield, this was a moment that spoke volumes about the calm superiority of the EURO 2008 runners-up.
Quote of the day
"It’s incredible. When you beat Argentina 4-0, you just can’t find the words. We’ve put in another great team performance. We’re all playing at our best, with everyone running themselves into the ground to win, and it’s incredible what we’ve been able to do,” Thomas Muller, Germany forward.
203 – The number of goals registered by Germany at FIFA World Cups. The European titans lie just behind Brazil, who boast 210 goals, and a long way ahead of closest rivals Italy (126) and Argentina (123).
Voice of the fans
"Germany are the tournament team. The real deal. They may look like a lesser team on paper compared to England and Argentina, but put them on grass and they will show you some German lessons," Blitz_Beat (USA), FIFA.com user.
Have your say
Have Germany been the most impressive side so far at South Africa 2010? Will Spain be able to add the global crown to their European title despite not performing to their usual standards?