WC2006: Germany v Argentina Quarter-Final
Germany started hard and knock the wind out of Sweden's sails, but the Swedes were as dozy at the back as England were previously. Michael Ballack played a touch to Miroslav Klose, who controlled the ball between Olof Mellberg and Teddy Lucic and broke into the box. Keeper Andreas Isaksson came out well and blocked the ball but it came away to Lukas Podolski, who side-footed the ball which cannoned off Lucic's head into the net on 4mins. The thing is Erik Edman was present and at left-back he only reacted the moment Podolski gained the ball, so he was merely ball-watching. Klose touched the ball and turned at the same time between Mellberg and Lucic with ease, and how Podolski wasn't closed down is another question.
Eight minutes later Podolski linked up with Klose again, passing to him on the edge of the box. Klose then went left, dragging Lucic with him and drawing the attention of Mellberg and Niclas Alexandersson, THREE players in defence, and then played to the right for Podolski, who had carried on running unmarked. Podolski shot right footed before Edman could get to him to score his and Germany's no.2. Sweden were rocked, understandably. Lucic was booked for a needless challenge on Klose and then picked up a second booking for holding onto Klose as the striker pushed the ball past him. Alan Hansen judged the second booking harsh but Lucic knew what he was doing and he had seemed so lost in defence the dismissal came as a godsend.
The Germans didn't press to make the advantage count and Sweden make note of the ease by coming forward, nonetheless. Christoph Metzelder came at Henrik Larsson come behind in the penalty area, and while it may seem innocuous with Larsson going down easily, it makes the mind up of the referee. However, justice appeared to be served as Larsson inexplicably sent the spot-kick over and high, and that was Sweden's best chance to get back into the match. Who would have put money on Larsson missing such an opportunity? To no avail did Sweden carry on, and Germany go throgh to the quarter-finals, pleasing the home support, their real test having been their opening game with Costa Rica so far.
Argentina v Mexico was a great match, arguably the best so far. While this game had Argentina all over it, it didn't start that way at all. Mexico kicked off and from then they launched at Argentina. From a freekick over on the Mexican right, Mario Mendez delivered, Pavel Pardo flicked on and Gabriel Heinze simply left Rafael Marquez to move around to the back and strike the ball while slipping towards goal on 5mins. Argentina were shaken but they restabilised themselves and took charge. Juan Roman Riquelme took the corner, Hernan Crespo was marked goalside by Bolton's Jared Borghetti but as the ball came in, Crespo slipped Borghetti to be goalside of him. Borghetti then panicked, saw the ball come in and aimed a head at it as Crespo raised a foot, the ball going in off Borghetti's head. German TV gave it to Crespo. That's one for technology.
Roberto Abbondanzieri rolled the ball out to Heinze and the Man Utd defender had another lapse of concentration, Jose Fonseca capitalising by getting to the ball first, but was brought down unceremoniously by Heinze. Roberto Ayala was in vicinity and the referee considered Ayala was enough to dissuade any notion of a professional foul, so he booked Heinze. Again, i disagreed with the BBC panle and commentary. I reckon Ayala could have had enough time to get to Fonseca as a presence, pressure him, and I was not convinced it was a clear cut goal scoring opportunity. Yet the game during both halves never failed to keep you wondering, Mexico came forward, defended well, so did Argentina. There were almosts', could-have-beens' and if-onlys', it was a well fought close match, so much so it went into extra time.
Let me clear up for the BBC that while Jose Antonio Castro was booked for what the commentary felt was a mistaken identity issue regarding Gerardo Torrado, as Torrado fouled Maxi Rodriguez, the referee was fine with the freekick but booked Castro for kicking the ball away. Nonetheless, the game was in such competitive spirit that it would take something special to separate a winner and a loser. Fortunately it was not penalties, it was another contender for Goal Of The Tournament. Argentina attacked, 98th minute, Juan Pablo Sorin picked up on the left and then swung a curling deep ball over to Rodriguez. Rodriguez then chest-controlled the ball and then unleashed a left-foot volley that went up and over Oswaldo Sanchez's right hand and straight into the net. Coming off the same conveyor belt as Joe Cole's effort against Sweden, it was simply a stunning goal and worthy of being a winning one.
Germany v Argentina, the first established quarter-final on June 30th, 4pm in Berlin. It should be a cracking match, a repeat of the 1990 final, in which West Germany won through a dubious penalty decision. I'm certain Jurgen Klinsmann was present at the time, and a penalty decision could be the only thing to seperate the two sides again. It would be very nice if England would attack from the kick-off equally as Mexico did, hit Ecuador quickly before they know what's going on. The Germans managed to do it too, like a sucker punch that needs to be followed up before the opponent can recover.