FormArgentina v Nigeria 1-0, v South Korea 4-1, v Greece 2-0, v Mexico 3-1
Germany v Australia 4-0, v Serbia 0-1, v Ghana 1-0, v England 4-1
Both teams are in blistering form, and confidence in each camp must be sky high after impressive round-of-16 wins. Argentina arguably faced a stiffer test against Mexico than did Germany against England – Mexico outplayed England in a friendly just before the tournament started – but both sides have been among the goals since the word go. Argentina will be encouraged by the brief period in the first half in Bloemfontein when England had Germany on the ropes a little bit, either side of the phantom goal. Diego Maradona has acknowledged that a correct refereeing decision there would have made life a lot more difficult for Germany, and his players will be hoping to similarly exploit inexperience in the German defence.
Previous meetingsArgentina won 8
Germany won 5
Argentina goals 25
Germany goals 24
Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final, though both teams have evolved considerably since then. Argentina now play a quick, bright attacking game, and so do Germany. The quarter-final meeting in the last World Cup might be more relevant. Then, as now, Argentina looked unstoppable, until Jürgen Klinsmann's unfancied Germans actually stopped them, taking the match to the end of extra time and inevitably winning on penalties. The same thing could happen again, no World Cup student ever writes off Germany, though there is no home advantage this time and Manuel Neuer is a far less experienced goalkeeper than Jens Lehmann. Argentina have the firepower to prevent the same thing happening in Cape Town.
ManagersDiego Maradona v Joachim Löw
A contrast in styles, although put up virtually any manager in the world against Maradona and you would have a contrast in styles. Superficially, Löw is a quiet, undemonstrative type who tends towards expressionlessness on the touchline, while Maradona is an extrovert, hyperactive camera magnet who is sometimes more entertaining than the match. Both men clearly know they are photogenic and not so secretly enjoy the spotlight, though personalities apart it is the effect they have on their teams that matters. Löw has had his critics but proved at this World Cup that he is an ideal modern manager for a modern German team. Maradona has possibly proved even more. He has earned the right to be taken seriously, and consequently so has his team. The driver is not going to crash the bus after all.
Key clashLionel Messi v the Germany defence
Barcelona's little genius has not scored a goal yet in the World Cup, but that does not mean he is having a bad tournament or has disappointed in a similar manner to Wayne Rooney. He was excellent in the group games and he made the opening goal against Mexico, the ludicrously offside one that Carlos Tevez scored. Big-name players usually step forward in big games, and Messi's creativity and running with the ball could trouble a German defence that found dealing with England's attack relatively easy. While the Germans were able to push England all over the pitch they could be on the receiving end this time. Even if Messi fails to score, Argentina have Gonzalo Higuaín and Tevez waiting to pounce, and that's not even counting Diego Milito and Sergio Agüero on the bench. Messi, one feels, is due a big game.
ExpectationsChile's coach, Marcelo Bielsa, said it was acceptable to go out of the World Cup to Brazil, and in their heart of hearts Germany may feel the same way about Argentina. That is not to say the Germans expect to be beaten, they will doubtless put up a fight, but the two South American giants are looking ominously potent at this World Cup and there is every chance of them meeting in the final. Germany, as always, set out to get as far as possible in this World Cup and give a good account of Bundesliga standards. Argentina think they can win it, at least they do now their unpredictable coach has proved he is not going to be an obstacle to progress. Argentina should prevail – on paper at least they have a superior squad – but it would not be the greatest surprise should Germany prove savvy enough to turn the weight of expectation against their illustrious opponents. That is what Germans tend to do in World Cups.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.