If it had indeed been the will of God that Argentina should claim this World Cup, then Diego Maradona must feel utterly abandoned now. Germany's staggering and irresistible progress through this tournament has propelled them yet again beyond fancied opposition. This was a slaughter to leave El Diego numbed and close to tears on the touchline. His dream has died.

He may concede this to have been another jaw-dropping master-class in incisive counterattacking football with which Argentina could not compete. Joachim Löw's team may have lacked the star names of their South American rivals, but they were always the more dangerous side here, with the scoreline, even at 4-0, anything but flattering. Youthful zest combines with purring ability and tactical discipline in their approach. After this victory, Germany will be undaunted at the prospect of playing either Paraguay or even Spain in the semi-finals. The momentum and conviction is all theirs.

In Bastian Schweinsteiger they boasted this contest's most dominant force, his personal display summed up by his contribution to Germany's third goal as he bustled beyond Angel Di María, Javier Pastore and Gonzalo Higuaín's half-hearted challenges before pulling back for Arne Friedrich to bundle home. Michael Ballack, the absent Germany captain, leapt in celebration in the stands. In the veteran's absence, this side is outmanoeuvring all-comers. They appear unstoppable.

The Germans had picked up where they left off against England, their slick exchanges sweeping downfield as Argentinian players gasped in their vapour trails. Philipp Lahm was a blur of energy down the right, a permanent outlet for team-mates to spread the play. Lukas Podolski was just as energetic down the opposite flank and, even if Mesut Ozil flitted in and out of the contest in his free role, Schweinsteiger set the side's rhythm and dominated central midfield.

The Bayern Munich midfielder was authoritative where Javier Mascherano could only appear flustered. It was Schweinsteiger's early free-kick, conceded after Nicolás Otamendi's late lunge on Podolski, that was flicked in by Müller who had slipped away from the right-back to glance a header through Sergio Romero. Maradona was all animated frustration though, at the interval, he may have been relieved. The Germans should have added a second while Argentina dawdled, Miroslav Klose skying over a shot from an unchallenged position near the penalty spot after Gabriel Heinze's error and Müller's pull-back.

The menace had been all German, the South Americans' anxiety prompting a huddle just inside the mouth of the tunnel as they sought urgency with the intrusive television cameras shoved away by Martín Demichelis. That briefly spurred them on, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez upping their tempo in a bid to undermine the German back line, though Löw's side were happy to let their opponents ping their passes at arm's length with little space behind for the tricky forwards to exploit.

The chances created were ambitious rather than truly threatening, Manuel Neuer claiming from Higuaín, Tevez and Di María with the winger battering beyond the far post when he did beat the goalkeeper. Yet, as their desperation grew, so too did Germany's threat on the break. A ramshackle back line was duly pierced for a second time as the grounded Müller conjured a hooked pass to liberate Podolski, with his centre beyond Nicolás Burdisso tapped into the gaping net by Klose.

Thereafter, this took on the appearance of a rout with Friedrich's third followed in the dying seconds by Klose's 52nd international goal on his 100th appearance. Messi, in contrast, ended this tournament goalless. As Argentina lament, so Germany dare to dream.

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