Right now, Germany's lucky number is four: Joachim Low's men struck four goals against Australia, then against England, and have now repeated the feat against Argentina. The press and public alike are united in praise for a young, goal-hungry Germany team, but when FIFA spoke to striker Thomas Muller about Saturday's victory over Diego Maradona's star ensemble in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals, he insisted attacking prowess was not the key to a famous victory.
"We've won because our tactical discipline was outstanding. The main thing was our organisation in defence, which meant our opponents hardly created anything. We restricted Argentina to a couple of long-range efforts, but that was about it," said the 20-year-old, now boasting a personal tally of four goals in South Africa, but suspended for Wednesday's semi-final in Durban against Spain after collecting a second booking of the tournament.
"The turning point was our second. Argentina were stronger than us in the preceding phase and put us under pressure," continued Muller, "but that's when you need creative attacking players." The Germany No13 joined in a unanimous chorus of praise for Bastian Schweinsteiger, arguably the most influential midfielder in the world game at present, whose link play between attack and defence came straight from the coaching textbook. Muller's Bayern team-mate was named Budweiser Man of the Match, but the articulate youngster felt the award was misplaced. "It should really have gone to the 'Team of the Match',"
It's simple: we were tactically brilliant.
Germany keeper Manuel Neuer was inclined to agree. The shot-stopper kept another clean sheet, and has conceded just two goals in his first appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals. Talking to FIFA, he praised his rock-solid back four: "Our defence was outstanding. After all, we knew it wasn't just about shutting out [Lionel] Messi, we had to close down the whole of the Argentina forward line. It's simple, we were tactically brilliant. And that obviously gave us space on the counter-attack, which we used to the maximum."
Winger Marko Marin, an unused substitute in Cape Town but a realistic candidate to stand in for Muller in the semis, confirmed that assessment. "I'd agree that the decisive factor was never letting Messi, and Argentina's strikers in general, get going," he said.
Germany have now netted eight times in two matches against two of the pre-tournament favourites, but a measure of their determination and professional approach is their refusal to be carried away by mere results. Instead, all parties were quick to single out the collective defensive effort as the recipe for success. Having dealt with that, the captain moved on to assessing the overall significance of a milestone performance.
"When we went 4-0 up, I genuinely thought, 'Unbelievable!'. I think that’s one of the best performances I've ever been involved in for the national team," Philipp Lahm told reporters at the Free State stadium. "Today, we've silenced the doubters. We've played one of the real World Cup favourites off the park. We knew that was what they were. I suspect they actually didn't believe that at all."