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World Cup Diary

RUBBER MATCH

GAME 57, QUARTERFINALS, JUNE 30, 2006 --BERLIN
GERMANY 1, ARGENTINA 1
FINAL/GERMANY WIN 4-2 ON PENALTY KICKS


Quick prediction: Argentina are favored, mildly, but Germany should use their home-field to advantage: Germany 2-1.

7... Hard to say who's more nervous, who's more anxious: fairly good play, but no serious threats so far, and more ball-possession dominance than skill-dominance by Argentina (we've seen that in Argentina's last game, when it barely translated to their advantage).

Here's why Argentina are dominating possession: They're content to sit on the ball, look for that elusive opening in the German defense rather than create it. Germany is (fortunately for us) keeping their newfound attacking style going the moment they get the ball. Argentina with a thrown-in deep in Germany territory, but Tevez is surrounded by six German shirts (you wonder how many unmarked Argentines that leaves).

15... OK: not a fine-quality first fifteen minutes. The usual tentativeness or more of what we've seen so much of in this world cup--drizzly play, midfield quagmires, downfield sloppiness? The one bright spot: the ref, Slovakia's Michel Lubos, is staying out of the way.

17... MICHAEL BALLACK with Germany's first great chance, a terrific header inside the box (from a Klose cross), but just wide. He grabbed his hair: he knows he missed a rare chance. Germany free kick 36 yards out, badly cleared, Germany's Mertesacker twists, shoots, --two feet above the crossbar. Argentina takes over, and so do the whistles from the 71,000 spectators (Argentina must have about 1,000).

22... Argentina still probing tentatively, no spectacular displays, Germany forcing the turn-overs rather easily, but not converting beyonmd those two attacks a few minutes ago. Oh yes: we are at Olympic Stadium.

24... Argentina just winning themselves a throw-in any replay from Berlin to Balochistan would have disproved. Argentina can';t maintain control though. Germany manage to push the ball between the half line and the 18-yard line, but again and again, Argentine heads give new meaning to a Berlin Wall.

26... Looks like Argtentina are still fond of playing those handballs: Hernan Crespo pretending to be Maradona.

One of those perennially infuriating commentators on ESPN: "Part of soccer is taking a dive." Yes, the part that repulses. Sissies. Klose not much of a factor so far in this match, which explains why the intensity level of the match has been stuck somewhere between dawn and the players' massage parlor. All of two shots on goal so far for the two teams combined.

Klinsmann waiting, as are we all

30... Here's another odd development in Germany's style: they are losing most physical battles. Oh no: the commentators again with their claim that Jurgen Klinsmann has brought "the American mentality, the American trainers" to the German game. Jesus. They never take a break. You say two things in English, and all of a sudden you're an Americanophile. Meanwhile Argtentina manage their first incursion into the German penalty box, but only to find German boots clearing wide. Argentina with a throw-in deep.

35... It's now official: a dull first 30 minutes for what was branded one of this tournament's marquee matches. This match's winner will after all be moving on to the final.

40... From the BBC: "Argentina are enjoying good possession in the Germany half, but the host's so-called suspect defence seems to be coping with the threat rather well. Jens Lehmann is yet to make a save of note."

45... Germany with the first hint of a threat: free kick from the wing, deep inside Argentina. Nothing doing. We go to half-time. Yes, a much more fluid game without all those ridiculous yellows and infuriating take-downs and dives, but neither side taking advantage of the flow. This has been more like 1970s Germany (anemic, annoying) than Weimar Germany, and we want Weimar. Now. On the football field, anyway. (But by all means spare us 1970s Argentina. Those thugs.)

It's been that sort of clutched play

 

HALF-TIME

Half-time fun: This from Der Spiegel's English edition today: "It does not come much bigger than Germany versus Argentina -- a confrontation steeped in World Cup history that will bring the host country to a standstill on Friday." And apparently the action on the field too.

More from Der Spiegel: "The quarter-final clash in Berlin's Olympic Stadium will evoke memories of 1986 and 1990, when West Germany and Argentina faced each other in successive World Cup finals. An Argentina inspired by Diego Maradona defeated West Germany 3-2 in 1986, but four years later the Germans got their revenge with a 1-0 win in Rome. That was the last time Germany defeated Argentina, with the South Americans enjoying two wins since. German national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a member of the victorious 1990 team, hopes to change that in Berlin on Friday. "Argentina is a great team but we can compete with them and I am sure we can beat them," Klinsmann said. "From what I have seen of the other countries in this tournament we do not need to hide from anyone." "

Not exactly the most rousing endorsement for the quality of play we've seen in this World Cup. Germans have a way with the veiled obvious.

Second half...

We begin with a Free kick for Germany deep in Argentina, just as we left off, and again an easily handled save. Also: a yellow for an argentinian who'll be missing the next game, should Argentina advance: Juan Sorin, the captain.

49... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ARGENTINA, A JUAN RIQUELME CORNER KICK, A HEADER BY ROBERTO AYALA, WHO BEATS MIROSLAV KLOSE AND SENDS THE BALL DOWN AND AWAY FROM THE KEEPER, NEAR POST. 1-0 ARGENTINA.

53... Good: the game's intensity is finally on the upswing. The crowd is aggrieved, Germany are on the ball.

54... But it's Argentina putting together an onslaught and what looked like a second goal, fortunately deflected by a German leg after a perfect set of assaulive passes all the way to the German box. Argentina still with it.

59... Germany's scoring and shooting machines are idle today. Argentina's machinery isn;t that great either, but when it comes to capitalizing...

Oh yes: another yellow for a cynical Argentina take-down just outside the box. Germany with a big, big chance...OVERSHOT TERRIBLY by Podolski.

62... Germany nibbling at the Argentine box's edges, corner-kicking, scrapping: Argentina stand there, rejecting everything Germany throw at them. And still no display of German shooting prowess. Klinsmann is getting ticked. The ball has been in the Argentine half for the last six, seven minutes, it just bounced around all over the Argentine box, and still nothing close to a clean shot. The Argentine keeper and the uninfluential Klose are both hurt.

67... Another pointless German corner kick. The non-aligned are beginning to think: Brazil-Argentina in the final.

69... Germany not lacking for chances, like this free kick some 30 yards out. But not doing anything with it, and now the damn Argentine keeper pretending to be hurt again, taking to the grass like it was a psychiatrist's couch. He's taken out of the game, and Germany take another one of those wasted free kicks high and away. Now the Argentines have begun their total-wastage football. The substitutions. The molasses goal kicks. The slow-boat walks off the pitch. The bullshit. "That's the beauty of soccer, knowledgeable fans booing," the idiot commentator goes. The beauty of soccer? It's what gives the game such a bad and deserved image (from time to time).

73... Argentina with a quick breakaway assault, a pass to the near side at the top of the box, a Maxi Rodriguez shot--hits the side of the net. This is seeping away from Germany's grasp.

74... But that's it. This game has degenerated into a circus of fouls, dives, cards and time-wasting ploys. This is what's so hateful about football. The last quarter of the game, a complete waste. Germany still pressing when the ball is in play, still knocking up against that Berlin Wall of Argentine engineering.

80...GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GERMANY! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL KLOSE! A throw in, a cross, a header to Klose at the six-yard line, and Klose taking header for header and burying it in the corner of the net for his toutrnament-leading 5th goal! We're tied! Germany breathing relief for now!

84... Germany just sustaining an attack inside the box, and surviving a mistake--an attempted clear that ended at a German's foot, could just as easily have been at the receiving end of a 2-1 Argentine lead. But Germany are back into Malvinas territory...

85... Klose taken out for the equally lethal Neuville. Still, a strange decision. Or maybe not: keep your strikers fresh when you need a tie-breaker.

Argentina's Maxi Rodrigues gets today's Greg Louganis award for diving, and a yellow card. Tevez and Gonmzales put together what looked like a heart-stopper around the German goal, but first the German keeper Jens Lehmann of Lehman Brothers blocked the shot, and second, it was off-side.

The crowd is oddly mellow for a tied game in in jury time: warming up for the 30 minutes of extra time? Argentina are more tired, but...they seem to be winning those duels, and I keep remembering that holland-argentina match in the 1978 final, and Argentina's two goals in extra time. Under that snow of confetti and the Argentine junta's bleak smiles from on high.

94... Last minute of added time; another yellow, this time for Germany's David Odonkor for a back-door tackle, and... an Argentine freew kick, dangerous chance. Ballack clears it for a throw in deep. One more chance for Argentina? No, we're going into overtime.

OVERTIME, FIRST HALF...

l'IMBECILE commentator: "You're going to see a very calm first fifteen minutes." And why is he suddenly delivering the Germany post-mortem?

Yes, very calm: 20 seconds into the game, and an Argentine takes out a German shin with the cynicism of a human hack-saw. No foul called. No, of course not. Ref only calls fouls on feathery tugs of the shirt and whatever the sideline judges glimpse from the depths of their Siberian fogs.

4... These two commentators (Marcelo Balboa and what's his name O'Brien) have the hots for Lionel Messi (his previous apprearance on the pitch elicited damn near some FCC fines for the obscene lust these two greeted it), but they won;t see their boy. Germany and Argentina playing unsexy football now, stumbling about, fouling, waxing nostalgic for that Holland-Portugal brawl. No shooting. Curious: was that an enormous picture of Che Guevara hanging from the stands?! Talk about the4 evolution of Olympic Stadium.

9... Ballack and Ayala have been playing hockey out there, snapping and elbowing each other. Ballack taking a whiny dive at the receiving end of the latest wasted German free kick. Argentina suddenly looking like it's getting a third wind.

11..Germany corner ... World sigh.

It certainly hasn't been calm. Just sloppy.

15... Ending this first "half" the way most of the match has been played, in fits and starts with brief flashes of semi-brilliance, like this corner-box whack by Luis Gonzales, but well side.

OVERTIME, SECOND HALF

Let's don't: no penalties, please.

17... Another German mistake in the box, poorly cleared, Argentina don;t take advantage. But they're dominating play in these last minutes. Where's the crowd's advantage? That energy? That Germanic wind? And again Lamm with a lousy clear. How many times can you get away with this? Corner Argentina. A good one, but Ballack tuirns into a gun from Navarrone and fires it out. Argentina loses on an off-side. Let's see if Germany can build a ladder over that Berlin Wall. They have the experience. Where's the will?

21... Argentina playing less conservatively than Germany. Still with the ball deep in Germany. Corner. Sent lobbing high over goal.

Germany have made what looks like a deal with the devil: concede all the way to penalty shots, hope that the back-up goalie for Argentina fails. Not a good decision. Lets fate take-over, when they could still control their fate here instead of letting Argentina take advantage of the German deflation and keep coming at them with attacks.

26... Ballack off the field with cramps. Argentina playing with a man advantage, and that diving style. They stumble into a German free kick, but several miles from goal.

28... Germany finally build a sound attack, but the cross fizzles into a fuse for an Argentina counter all the way to the 20, where Tevez takes a lame lobby shot over goal. Ballack still sidelined? No, he's back. So are Argentina. Germany obviously playing for those penalties, banking on its keeper. Maxi Rodriguez with a free kick in German territory, well cleared. Germany with a throw-in from its end and the chance to run out the clock. Damn it. We've got penalty kicks. Merde.

Let's be clear: This is no longer football. It's not even "a mind game." This is sheer luck. This is crap-shooting in every sense of the term.

AYALA'S SHOT IS SAVED! AND GERMANY'S PODOLSKI MAKES IT.

Maxi Rodriguez makes it 3-2 ... germany score again, 4-2

Germany Argentina  
1 1  
2 1  
3 2  
4 2  
     
     
     

GERMANY WIN!

OK, now that the dust has settled: Not the best way to end a match, never the way World Cup match should end (I'm for playing a second match altogether once overtime hasn't decided it) but I'll take it. We're heading for a Brazil-Germany final, as I predicted three days before the tournament began, unless the French can pull off another miracle (not that they'd then make it all the way to the final by any means).

 

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