The World Cup, with its 32 participants, is bound to lumber at first, but by the end it is mercurial. Not long ago, it was being suggested that Europe's sides are now also-rans. The holders Italy, a great power in the history of this tournament, and England, who merely get a great deal of attention, had left early. France, for that matter, were even more decrepit than alleged. This competition, though, is as likely to be the making of a team as its undoing.
It will not, after all, be the first World Cup since 1950 to stage a final without a European representative, although the decisive game in which Uruguay beat Brazil 60 years ago was, strictly speaking, a group match in the peculiar system employed that summer. Either Germany or Spain will be on the pitch in Johannesburg next Sunday and might be pitted against Holland.
Football is a flurry of cliches and it is the custom to present South Americans as street footballers, while Europeans are depicted as doggedly disciplined professionals. Such categorisation is, of course, insulting gibberish that ignores the tactical innovations of one continent and the flair of the other. Germany continue to be highly exciting.
Even Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is more markedly a holding midfielder than his nearest team-mate Sami Khedira, had a flashback to his previous life when he broke free on the wing to set up the centre-half Arne Friedrich for Germany's third against Argentina. Eight of the goals for Joachim Löw's side have come in a knock-out phase that opened for them with the 4-1 win over England. The manager, for the moment, has achieved a blend of diligence and flair.
His side also disguise one another's limitations. With Holger Badstuber out of favour, Löw's left-back is Jérôme Boateng. The strength of the 21-year-old in the challenge will have pleased followers of his new club, Manchester City, whom he has joined from Hamburg, and the 6ft 4in defender is really a centre-half, but Argentina could not expose any deficiencies on Saturday.
Even if the defeated manager Diego Maradona was, by turns, crestfallen and prickly, his grip on the truth was tight. "We were selfish," he said. "These days it's more about the collective." The comment is not be interpreted as an allegation that the victors had been mechanical. Löw had simply struck the balance between structure and expressiveness.
In retrospect, it is baffling to realise that there was virtually a void at the heart of an Argentina line-up in which the one genuine midfielder was Javier Mascherano. Germany's forces were disposed conventionally and the side had the means to attack as well as defend. Much as the captain Philipp Lahm overlapped, there never seemed to be unattended space behind him.
Germany were ahead in the third minute, as Argentina did almost nothing to stop Thomas Müller from glancing home Schweinsteiger's inswinging free-kick from the left. While Löw's career does not lack for times of dejection and failure, he appears to have attained a level where he presides over excellence and witnesses his schemes being implemented to perfection.
Given Argentina's approach, it would have taken a moment of inspiration to rewrite the terms of the contest. Lionel Messi is capable of that, but, in his post behind the centre of the attack, he was exactly where Schweinsteiger wanted him. The terms of the contest could conceivably have been redrafted if the Barcelona player had tried his luck on the wings, but there was no sustained effort to do so.
Maradona's team were soon crestfallen and there was a widespread sense that the game was over, even though the second Germany goal did not arrive until the 67th minute when Miroslav Klose tapped in a cross from Lukas Podolski.
The Bayern Munich attacker provided another elementary finish in the 89th minute. On the occasion of his 100th cap this brace took Klose's tally in international football to 52.
Should he strike again he will match the Brazilian Ronaldo's record of 15 goals at World Cup finals. The fact that Klose should be on the verge of keeping such company epitomises Germany's work. He might not look cut out to rub shoulders with legends, but he stands beside them in the record books.
Stereotypes talk of German arrogance, but we ought to be glad of some of the bold statements since they are often true. Remarks from Franz Beckenbauer about England being too weary for this tournament were initially the stuff of an admittedly drab argument, but he had simply been pointing to the obvious.
Germany excel at common sense. They have an astute manager in a country where sustained investment in youth development has been made by club and football association. This radical strategy could be tried in certain other countries, were it not for greed and conflicting egos.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.