The rising tension between Germany and Argentina xbefore tomorrow's quarter- final encounter escalated into more bad blood between the two sides yesterday.
Philipp Lahm, the German captain, added to his team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger's criticisms of their opponents, accusing them of being bad losers. Schweinsteiger had called the Argentinians "disrespectful" and accused them of trying to influence referees.
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"Bastian said what he said. We know South Americans are impulsive and temperamental and cannot lose," said the usually softly spoken Lahm. "We'll see on Saturday how they lose and how they behave after a defeat."
There is a specific intensity to the encounter because West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final and a shoot-out between the countries went in favour of the Europeans in the quarter-final four years ago. After the latter match there was a brawl in which players and coaches traded kicks and punches.
The build-up to tomorrow's match in Cape Town is so full of taunts that it sounded as if boxers were needling one another at a weigh-in. Yet the Argentina manager, Diego Maradona, kept his composure when told about it yesterday, asking instead if Schweinsteiger was getting "nervous", although he did add that his squad wanted "revenge" for 2006. "I'm not worried about what they say about the penalties, the kicks," he added. "We're going to go and beat them in their half."
The defender Martin Demichelis added: "I could sit here and talk about Schweinsteiger's comments for an hour if I wanted to, but I'd prefer to give my response out on the pitch. We beat the Germans on 3 March (in a friendly), but maybe they've forgotten about that. All we're asking for is some respect from them."
Expectation and tension lie beneath the bickering. Argentina have been world champions twice, while Germany or West Germany have won the trophy on three occasions. They must now deal with one another earlier than they would have preferred. Ambition is primarily what drives them but there is also a residue of ill-will from 2006. When Germany did talk about the merits of their next opponents, the compliments were garnished with disdain for Fabio Capello's squad.
"We have to show we can finally beat a big team – someone like Argentina, Brazil or Spain," Lahm said. "Definitely, these are bigger opponents than England."
"It is not going to be easy on Saturday because Argentina are stronger than England," said the general manager Oliver Bierhoff. "There were obvious English weaknesses that had all been there in the group stages. Argentina have very few weaknesses – although there must be some."
In defiance of stereotypes, it is the South Americans who have shown more control. While Germany scored freely against Australia and England, they were beaten 1-0 by Serbia in a group game that highlighted an erratic aspect to Joachin Löw's group, with Lukas Podolski missing a penalty and Miroslav Klose being shown a red card.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi missed training yesterday with a cold after Maradona decided to rest him as a precaution. He is expected to be fit for the match at Green Point Stadium.