Hello everyone, and welcome to our coverage of Argentina against Germany. Argentina against Germany. Oh man. This is perhaps the quintessential World Cup fixture. It's a rivalry that's been going for ever. Oh alright. Since 1958. That's when Helmet Rahn - who had scored the winner for West Germany in the 1954 final, and had since instigated a policy of fuelling himself totally with Yellow Drink manufactured to the exacting standards of the Bavarian Purity Law - rattled in a couple in a 3-1 group win over the South American side. Eight years later they'd meet again at Villa Park, Rafael Albrecht getting himself sent off for kneeing Helmut Haller in the swingers during a tempestuous (but goalless) group game. Helmut by name, helmet by nature, incidentally; Albrecht injured himself in the vile act and limped off the field, while Haller played on.
Their next meeting was in the 1986 final. But let's venture off piste for a couple of minutes. Because before the teams got there, the two countries enjoyed a friendly match in 1982. Here's the only memorable piece of action from it, Uli Stielike cutting both of Maradona's legs off in an infamous challenge.
And here's Maradona wandering off the pitch at the end of the match with a face on. Will you look at that expression! I would pay ready cash money to see him slip into one of these thundering funks at some point during today's proceedings.
Anyway, Maradona's Argentina went on to win the 1986 World Cup, beating West Germany in the last truly great final. Though in truth, it wasn't a classic until the Germans woke from their negative slumber, two goals down. Maradona didn't score in the game, but set up the winner with an exquisite pass to set Jorge Burrachaga free. That was a gorgeous World Cup.
Maradona certainly thought it was gorgeous. This celebration verges on the hot, if not downright saucy. Again, I would pay vast sums to see him gallavanting around next Sunday, preferably running around the pitch holding the World Cup at trouser level, bulbous end outwards, while flicking the Vs with his free hand. (None of this is a slight on Germany, who have been beyond cool in this year's tournament and would be grand victors. It's just that, y'know, it's Maradona.)
The teams met again in 1990. Again in the final. And will you look at this challenge. Sure enough, two Argentinians were given their marching orders during their defeat to West Germany. They were a frankly outrageous side, that Argentina outfit, who spent the entire month in Italy deliberately annoying everyone just for yuks.
And then there was the pitched battle of 2006. Argentina really should have won the quarter final, but Jose Pekerman bottled it, taking off Juan Roman Riquelme and handing the initiative to a grateful Germany. Who grabbed their chance with both hands. Cue mass brawl after the inevitable German penalty shoot-out victory. More of this, please! (Sorry for not being sanctimonious regarding on-pitch brouhahas, but that's the way it's got to be.)
You'll notice Germany haven't instigated too much of the bother, instead choosing to saunter through the decades with the effortless insouciance of men who listen to freeform jazz and know where all the best burlesque clubs are. "We know South Americans are a temperamental lot," says Philip Lahm. "We will see how they deal with another defeat." Ah right, we can see the way this is going to go.
Kick off, possibly in both senses: 3pm.
The stadium: Green Point Stadium, Cape Town.
What Argentina will have: La fiebre de la batalla.
What Germany will need to be mit: Die Schlacht Fieber.
Poor sod doing his level best to avoid bench-emptying 22-man stramashes: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
The Argentina team ... Romero, Otamendi, Demichelis, Burdisso, Heinze, Maxi, Mascherano, Di Maria, Messi, Higuain, Tevez.Subs: Pozo, Rodriguez, Bolatti, Veron, Garce, Samuel, Aguero, Gutierrez, Palermo, Milito, Andujar, Pastore.
... and the German starting XI: Neuer, Lahm, Mertesacker, Boateng, Friedrich, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Muller, Ozil, Podolski, Klose.Subs: Wiese, Jansen, Aogo, Tasci, Kiessling, Badstuber, Trochowski, Kroos, Cacau, Marin, Butt, Gomez.
For the second day running, Google Translate hasn't been able to cope with the gnomic utterances of Jock Wallace. "It should be das Schlacht Fieber since Fieber is neutral in our language," writes Dieter Hoffmann. "But the word doesn't exist. It would be Kampfeslust (die, though feminine even for football players), which means 'fighting lust', literally translated. Looking forward to an intense football game, with, hopefully, the better team winning, and more hopefully, ours!" But Kat Stratton adds: Surely in the grand German tradition of why use five words when you can use one, battle fever would become Schlachtfieber?" Here, you two, make up your minds! I'm simplevölk, so which is it to be?
Some bad pre-match news for Maradona: cheeky Uruguay funster Luis Suarez has parked his tank on El Diego's lawn, and is planning to pop out the top with a view to piping out a wee drop or two of the Special Territorial Water from his front tail. "The Hand of God now belongs to me," he says. You know what this is about. "Mine is the real Hand Of God. I made the best save of the tournament. Sometimes in training I play as a goalkeeper so it was worth it. There was no alternative but for me to do that and when they missed the penalty I thought 'It is a miracle and we are alive in the tournament'." As this report is a sanctimony-free zone, we'll not be going into the rights and wrongs of last night's game here, but whichever side of the argument you stand, you have got to admit: that is one hell of a quote. If Maradona bests it by the end of the day, we'll be doing well.
Pluckity plinth! The ref wheechs Kick Off Ball from the top of Kick Off Ball Plinth, and leads the teams out. It's anti-hate day. None of that, please. Javier Mascherano, in Argentina's classic blue-and-white-striped albiceleste shirt, reads out an anti-racism message in Spanish; Phillip Lahm, in Germany's change black strip, does likewise in his own tongue. First the Argentinian version, a jaunty instrumental number which at one point threatens to turn into the middle-eight of Fiesta by The Pogues. Why no words? Jorge Morgenstern explains: "Our national song has very powerful lyrics, especially at the end, very appropriate for a football match warm-up (May the laurels be eternal the ones we managed to win / Let us live crowned in glory or let us swear in glory to die!") but the intro is very long. So for the last decade we have been condemned to a music-only moment of nationalism. Since 2006, fans at the Germany WC started chanting to the intro in a football-fan way and that's what you will hear and see. Players stand still, mouth shut up, fans chanting and jumping, simply going 'ooh oh oohh' to the tune of the intro." And then the German ditty. You've got to hand it to them: it's sassy!
On yellows, incidentally: Friedrich, Lahm, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil and Muller for Germany - and only two Argentinians! Heinze and, unsurprisingly, Mascherano. Odds on Mascherano missing the semi should Argentina win, as a result of getting into a pointless argument in the third minute of injury time: 100/1 on.
And we're off! Argentina set the ball rolling and pass it around the back a wee while. "Go for the Kampfeslust," says Frederik Ring of our minor translation issues. "Schlachtfieber sounds like some sort of disease you catch when butchering pigs the wrong way."
45 sec: Well this didn't take long. Klose runs gently into the back of Mascherano, who falls to the floor and appears to be dead. The referee sighs. He takes no action.
3 min WHAT A START!!! Argentina 0-1 Germany: Germany start brightly, with two early attacks. They win a free kick out left, 30 yards from goal. Schweinsteiger swings it towards the penalty spot. Romero races out to claim, but doesn't make it, Muller getting his head in first - way ahead of Otamendi too - and popping the ball into the net. Schweinsteiger doesn't appear that nervousshhhhh, Diego.
5 min: Argentina are all over the shop here. Germany are playing brilliantly. Ozil nearly releases Muller down the inside right channel. Then Lahm turns Heinze in and out down the German right. This is a very nervous start by Argentina.
8 min: This is an uberstrong start by Germany. Ozil is nearly freed down the inside-left, but the ball's poked out for a corner. A minor melee in the area. Messi comes back to defend; it's only his clever turn on the edge of the area when picking up a loose ball that relieves some pressure on the rocking Argentinian side. "I can't understand why people keep banging on about the psychic octopus," begins Stephen Spencer. "We all know you don't win anything with squids." Ladies and gentlemen, he's here all week. Please don't try the scampi, though.
9 min: Argentina look to break, finally showing something up front. Di Maria is given the ball in acres down the left, but fannies around hopelessly, eventually losing posession. Maradona's side really need to clear their heads. Germany are looking very composed, every inch potential world champions.
11 min: And so it begins. Otamendi is booked for a late clip on Friedrich down the German left.
13 min: The ball bounces around the front of the Argentinian box awhile. Nobody can hack it clear. Ozil looks to shoot but there's no room. He lays off to Podolski, who tries to curl one into the top-right corner. The ball's deflected out for a corner. Argentina clear, Tevez looking to break but unable to find Higuain with a ball down the left. It's a real shambolic show so far from the Argentinians. Then again Holland took 50-odd minutes to get it together, so they've no need to worry yet. "Frederik Ring makes a good point," writes Eric Calhoun, "but then again Schweinsteiger sounds like the colloquial name for the same disease." Ladies and gentlemen, he's here all week. Please don't try the sausages.
15 min: Di Maria tries to break down the left again. He reaches the German area but can't get a cross in. Germany clear. Chasing back, Mascherano scythes down Schweinsteiger. He's got a shaving of the ball, which saves him from a yellow. There's a case to be made for calming down here.
18 min: Argentina win their first corner of the game, down the right. Maxi swings it towards the near post; it's cleared. Argentina try to come again, Heinze sending the ball back into the area, but three men are offside. Dreadful play from Argentina so far. "The Dutch won't like this but are this German team the closest to playing the 'total football' of those great 1970s Oranje?" wonders David Wall. "Their speed of movement, especially in the change between defence and attack, is striking, and the players seem very flexible in terms of their positions. Already in the first 5 minutes we've seen Khedira, putatively the holding midfielder charging into the box in the manner of Bryan Robson in pursuit of passes. And they have attacking full-backs on both sides in Lahm and Boeteng. Which side will Cruyff be supporting (given his comments about Brazil) if they meet in the final?"
20 min: Germany had four on three then, with players either side of a very stretched Argentinian defence. But Muller, trying to release Podolski down the inside left from the centre circle, gives the ball far too much of a skelp, and the danger is gone as it sails into the stand. There are more goals in this for Germany, if they play it cool.
22 min: Now it's Klose's turn to watch an errant final pass, hit too heavy, sail into the crowd, this time down the right. Argentina are a complete shower at present.
23 min: Finally Messi comes out to play. Standing on the right-hand edge of the German D, he rolls a tasty pass down the inside-right channel for Tevez. The Argentinian striker can't quite get to the ball, Neuer coming out to smother at his feet. But that was much better from Argentina, their first real whiff of danger.
24 min: This was brilliant from Muller, one of the stars of this World Cup. He bursts past the static Heinze down the right and into the area. Drawing Burdisso across, he lays the ball inside to Klose, who sidefoots powerfully over the bar from 10 yards. What a miss. It really should have been 2-0.
27 min: Messi is Argentina's only hope at present. He zips down the right and reaches the byline, but can't keep his cross towards Maxi and Higuain in play. "What I want to know," pipes up Niall Harden, "is: how did Joachim Löw persuade his assistant to dress up in matching boy band garb? They both look totally absurd, and not good absurd like Diego and his Special Brew chic." Diego's better than Special Brew, Niall, come on. Some sort of supermarket-brand barley wine, at least.
29 min: Argentina can't get into this at all. Germany are looking very comfortable. "Maybe England's loss to Germany is not so embarrassing in view of Germany's seemingly transcendent ascent in this world cup," writes Patrick Smith, the sound of his desperate straw-grasping sounding like the hum of a million vuvuzelas.
31 min: Podolski grapples with Tevez, 25 yards out, just about level with the right-hand edge of the German area. Messi takes a whack, hitting a ball that ain't ever comin' back down.
33 min: Di Maria cuts inside from the right, runs at Boateng, and slaps a low effort on goal. It's pretty lame, all told, Neuer snaffling it into his arms with ease.
34 min: A small spark at last for Argentina, Higuain twisting past Boateng and Friedrich in the German area and getting a low shot towards the right-hand corner on target. Neuer is behind it. "Seems like every neutral's now rooting for Germany," notes Boris Starling. "Is nothing sacred anymore?" Hey, don't knock it. If England keep picking up floating fans at the rate they're doing, they'll take their turn to be the world's most popular side in 2525.
36 min: Muller is booked for attempting to bring down a ball with his forearm, Gary Neville style, just outside his own area to the left of goal. He'll miss the semi if Germany make it. Messi takes a terrible free kick, banging it straight into the wall, but Mascherano plays a low ball down the inside-left channel to Tevez, who draws the advancing Neuer and passes square to Higuain, the striker rolling the ball home. He's offside, though - as are three other Argentinians when the initial pass forward was played. A good decision, albeit a complete no-brainer.
39 min: Podolski clips a no-backlift effort just wide right of goal. That wasn't far away at all.
40 min: Argentina are slowly working their way back into this, though. From a corner on the right, Mascherano swings a ball towards the edge of the six-yard area. Demichelis was ready to power a header home, but with his defenders standing whistling, Neuer comes out to punch clear.
43 min: Argentina are enjoying a lot of the ball now, but there's no real sense that they're about to break through. Here's Boris Starling re England's attempt to become the neutrals' favourites by the year 2525: "Only if man is still alive, surely." Today's pop kids are gonna love that gag.
44 min: Lahm wanders past Heinze down the right as though the Argentinian full back isn't there, which he may as well not be. Upon venturing near the byline, the German captain pulls the ball back to Muller, who shapes, shoots, and watches his effort deflected wide left of goal by Burdisso. From the corner, nothing other than a tantrum from the increasingly preposterous Heinze, who snags his knee while sliding across the floor and gets right up in the referee's grille to complain. But about what?
HALF TIME: Argentina 0-1 Germany. Messi skidaddles down the middle, shifts the ball a tad left to scoot past Schweinsteiger, and Lampards it at goal. And that's it for the first half. Germany have a deserved lead - in truth it should be at least two goals. Diego Maradona will need to pull something out of the hat now, because Argentina were poor.
Thank you, my BBC! "'I'm not sure whose wife she is, but I'd guess she's a WAG', says the commentator," reports Tom Wade of the British coverage. "That's Charlize Theron! Nice commentary, BBC!" Actually, who is this commentator? It's not the excellent Jonathan Pearce, because he doesn't sound like he's in the throes of a crushing depression, or trying to supress a mild mania. And it's not Guy Mowbray, because he's not a total jingoistic clown. He's not bad on the whole, to be fair. But who is he? Who is Talking Man?!
And we're off again! "I sense a hand of god moment coming up," writes Stan Lee. We've just had our second in 80 years of World Cup history, and now you want two in just under 24 hours? Anyway, Argentina start it brightly - has Maradona worked his magic? - with first Heinze making ground down the left, then Di Maria doing likewise down the other wing. First it's Maxi who can't quite get a shot in, then it's Messi. Already, this is better from Argentina.
48 min: The busy Di Maria cuts in from the right and unleashes a screamer towards the top-left corner. The ball drifts at the last and swishes past the outside of the left-hand post. I'm not sure Neuer would have got a hand to that had it been on target. A lovely effort. Steven Hughes says that Talking Man is Steve Wilson: "And I wish he'd stop Lawrenson using 'sad', as a pejorative term, when 'Lawro' talks about all the ephemera that surrounds football - like statistics and such. One thing that is 'sad' is Lawrenson's so-called punditry. I don't mean sad as pejorative; I mean that Lawrenson actually makes me feel melancholy."
51 min: Mascherano goes in high on Schweinsteiger, his studs showing. He's really trying his best to pick up a yellow card. "Just watched the BBC pundits do their cliquey thing and ignore Clarence Seedorf who is the only interesting person there," writes Paul Brierley, quite mildly, before pulling out all the stops. "Alan Shearer is a crime against humanity. When I hear him prattle on inanely I can imagine how Neil Lennon felt when the Geordie dullard kicked him in the head."
53 min: Argentina's display of early second-half verve continues apace. Maxi chests a ball down to Tevez, level with the left-hand post, 12 yards out. Tevez sends a shot goalwards - for body shape, think Zidane's goal in the 2002 European Cup final - but Mertesacker is right next to him to take the shot in the face. Ooyah. Oof.
56 min: A German free kick, 30 yards out, dead central. It's dead useless, too, driven straight into the wall by Podolski and eventually gathered up by Romero. "It is a remarkable but incontrovertible matter of historical fact that - in my thirty years or so of watching international footie tournaments - no team I have supported has EVER won a penalty shoot-out," writes Richard Hands of Mali, who I'm guessing isn't rooting for Uruguay to make it three. "Ever. It strikes me - somewhat belatedly - that this is an eminently marketable talent, one, indeed, to render even tentacles of Paul the Oberhausen Octopus suctionless with envy. If Messrs Maradona and Löw would care to contact me through your kind offices, I am sure we can rapidly come to an understanding even at this late stage of the proceedings. Usual brokerage fee to MBM, needless to say."
57 min: It's very stretched, this, now. First Messi nearly sets Tevez free down the inside-right channel - he's just offside, though. Then Boateng swings a ball in from the left, Romero diving to punch clear with Klose in, er, close attendance.
60 min: Schweinsteiger loses the ball in the middle of the pitch to Higuain, who tears down the middle. Boateng chases back and saves the day for his midfield team-mate with a wonderful tackle. "In the low-scoring games, of which there are a lot, and in some of the high-scoring ones, I think the keepers are playing much more of a role," ruminates Shreerang Sarpotdar. "Neuer and Stekelenburger making some great saves, howlers like Cesar's etc. denying their team - surely this is a keeper's World Cup rather than the one where we drool over attacking talent? Especially when you have a ball with a mind of its own, unlike say Terry."
61 min: Argentina are streaming forward at the rate of two attacks per minute. Problem is, so are Germany. All the final passes are going awry, though. Should someone get it together, we'll be seeing a goal quite soon.
62 min: Another free kick, dead central, for Germany. This one a bit closer, 25 yards maybe. Schweinsteiger hoofs it into the wall, Podolski style. That was risible.
63 min: Tevez hoicks the ball at goal from 25 yards. Straight at Neuer. Then, 30 seconds later, Messi slips Higuain into the area down the left. The striker gets a shot on goal from a tight angle. Neuer palms it nervously before smothering it. All of a sudden, Argentina are looking very dangerous. Germany can't keep living like this.
65 min: Di Maria dances, shimmies, shakes and makes other disco-friendly movements down the right, before cutting inside, romping into the area, and whacking a low shot goalwards. Neuer claims. Argentina are beginning to play well, for a sustained period, at last. But both sides are so ragged. This is hilariously open.
68 min: GOAL!!! Argentina 0-2 Germany. Otamendi commits himself upfield and is robbed by a tackle from Muller, who lying on the floor then feeds Podolski. The striker tears down the inside left and free into the area. Romero has no option to come out and cover the angle - leaving Klose free in the centre to pick up the pass rolled inside and take two touches to roll home. Argentina are on the brink here.
70 min: Pastore comes on for Otamendi, the first change by Maradona, who has the proper funk on.
71 min: Tevez battles away up front for Argentina. Higuain picks up the ball and lashes a shot across the face of goal from the left. There's nobody in the centre to poke home.
72 min: Boateng is replaced by Jansen.
74 min: THIS IS ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Argentina 0-3 Germany. Busy work from Muller wins a corner down the left. From it, the ball's played back to Schweinsteiger, who beats Di Maria and then drops a shoulder to dawdle past Pastore, then pulls the ball back from the byline to Friedrich to sidefoot home from close range. That's a wonderful goal, though the defensive challenges weren't up to much. Germany really are looking like world champions elect.
75 min: Aguero comes on for Di Maria.
78 min: Tevez has a wild wallop from 30 yards out, cutting in from the left. It's so far over the bar. Khediar comes on for Kroos.
79 min: Mascherano finally picks up his yellow card for his 845,392nd transgression of the afternoon. He'll miss the semi-final if... but come on.
81 min: Kroos takes a high ball down and slaps a shot goalwards from 30 yards. Romero gets down to palm away. "Does this mean Argentina are no better than England, who at least scored two?" asks Millie in Montreal. "Messi is no better than Rooney? Will DeMichelis not ever go home again?"
83 min: Messi twists down the right, but eventually runs around in circles and loses the ball. He's been terrible today.
84 min: Muller goes off to a tumultuous ovation. Trochowski comes on to replace. Such a shame that Muller won't play in the semi after picking up a very harsh yellow for not very much.
85 min: Oh Diego!
87 min: Messi picks up the ball 25 yards out, turns, and unleashes a shot straight into Neuer's midriff. He's really not enjoyed himself at this World Cup. "Who's the WAG in the red coat they show every time Germany score?" asks Steve Peake, always on hand to serve up a bit of hot Angela Merkel-based F.U.N.
88 min: THIS IS A ROUT. Argentina 0-4 Germany. What a finish by Klose, who has now scored as many World Cup finals goals as Gerd Muller. Trochowski shimmies down the left and lifts a cross into the centre for Klose, who sidefoots a dropping ball into the bottom-left corner. That is such a lovely finish. Gerd Muller, though!
90 min: There will be one more minute of this, the officials taking pity on a dreadful Argentina. However, take nothing away from Germany. They are IMMENSE. "Isn't it amazing that only two or three of these Germans would make the England squad, according to the BBC pundits before the 4-1 debacle, and here they are thrashing the mighty Argentina?" wonders Eoin Fitzpatrick. "I don't get it." It's a puzzle alright. You'd almost have them down for clowns phoning it in if you didn't know better.
AND THAT'S IT!!! GERMANY RECORD AN AMAZING RESULT WITH A SIMPLY WONDERFUL PERFORMANCE!!! Argentina 0-4 Germany. Maradona looks distraught, but this isn't about him. Joachim Low has quietly put together an excellent side, easy on the eye, full of real world-class superstars; you know, players who actually do stuff. If they win the World Cup - which they surely will if their last two performances are anything to go by - nobody should be surprised. They are brilliant, much as pre-tournament favourites Spain have been disappointing. So then, a Germany-Holland final, anyone?
Seems like the octopus was right after all. Anyway, well done, Paul, and sorry for doubting you. Can you ever forgive me? "He seems to have sensed Germany's greatness before the rest of us," notes Dave Neuman. "I applaud him with my numerically inferior pair of limbs." The last word to Shreerang Sarpotdar: "Any chance the Beeb can get Paul Octopus as the pundit? The ideal commentator: always right, yet doesn't speak much."
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.