It is only fans not footballers, we are told, who worry about history. Yet it was hard not to sense the ghosts of the past at both the Free State Stadium and Soccer City as Germany and Argentina inflicted further punishment on familiar adversaries in today's Round of 16 contests to set up a Cape Town quarter-final.
Any meeting of Germany and England comes weighted with memories of past encounters and there was an unwelcome feeling of déjà vu for Fabio Capello's side in Bloemfontein. England won the countries' 1966 FIFA World Cup™ Final confrontation but Germany have been paying them back ever since. To Mexico 1970, Italy 1990 and UEFA EURO 96, we can now add South Africa 2010 after a last-16 contest that brought England's heaviest defeat on the world stage.
The match had been billed as Germany's youth versus England's experience – and the former won hands down. England had no answer to the speed and slick passing of Joachim Low's team, as evidenced by Thomas Muller's second-half double, which concluded lightning counter-attacks as Germany achieved their biggest victory over their old foes. While England must reconsider how to beat the game's traditional giants in knockout competition on the world stage – something they have still not done without home advantage – Mexico's conundrum tonight is how to get beyond the last 16.
Only when hosting the FIFA World Cup have they managed that feat and, like England, El Tri had a familiar sinking feeling in succumbing to Argentina, just as they had done at this same stage in 2006. Unlike that closely fought contest, which Argentina won after extra time, this one was firmly in the grip of Diego Maradona's men by half-time as they led 2-0. Carlos Tevez then struck the day's most spectacular goal before youngster Javier Hernandez gave Mexico a glimmer of hope for the future with a fine consolation effort.
Lionel Messi may have yet to score but his team-mate Gonzalo Higuain claimed the outright lead in the race for the adidas Golden Boot by scoring Argentina's second goal at Soccer City, his fourth of the competition. Moreover, La Albiceleste moved top of the team scoring table with ten goals – one more than the Germans. That statistic augurs well for the sides' forthcoming encounter on Saturday, which fittingly offers a rematch of their Berlin quarter-final in 2006, won by Germany on penalties after a goalless draw. Argentina will want revenge but, as England can tell them, exorcising ghosts is not always easy when the Germans are around.
ResultsGermany 4-1 England
Argentina 3-1 Mexico
Goal of the dayArgentina 3-0 Mexico, Carlos Tevez, 52 mins:Collecting the ball some five yards outside the D, the Argentina forward sought in vain to jink between two green shirts. The ball bounced back off a defender, however, and where Tevez failed with finesse, he succeeded with brute force, smashing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of Oscar Bravo's goal.
One to rememberOne moment Gabriel Heinze was in the warm embrace of his Argentina team-mates, as they huddled together to celebrate a first-half goal, the next he was walking face first into a television camera. If that brought a whole new meaning to getting close to the action thankfully no damage was done as Heinze recovered from the bang to his head to make two vital contributions as Mexico sought a way back in the second half. After clearing one Pablo Barrera effort off the goalline he then got that same head in the way of a Barrera cross to deny the waiting Rafael Marquez.
Quote of the day"I want to dedicate this win to my friend Valentino Rossi who has not been well," Argentina coach Maradona spares a thought for the Italian Moto GP rider who is recovering from a compound fracture of his right leg.
The stat15 – Germany marched into the last eight for the 15th successive FIFA World Cup after beating England. Fifteen is also the number of goals recorded in the Round of 16 so far - the first four games producing the same total accumulated by all eight games in 2006.
Voice of the fans"What can we say? Klose's finishing, Muller's ability to find open space, Lahm's defending, Ozil's passing and awareness... Great game – Germany proved a lot of people wrong,"FIFA.com user Lococabbage.
Have your sayCan Argentina avenge their 2006 loss to Germany?