CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Suddenly, it’s 2006 all over again in Germany.
Fans are turning out in their tens of thousands on the streets of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and elsewhere to watch what is surely the best German soccer team put together in the past quarter-century.
That team, in a performance as devastating as it was comprehensive, demolished Argentina, 4-0, on Saturday to sweep into the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup.
“They did what we knew they were capable of doing,” said downcast Argentine forward Carlos Tevez.
“I feel like I have been hit by Muhammad Ali,” said Diego Maradona, Argentina’s coach.
Striker Miroslav Klose scored two of the goals, bringing his haul in three World Cups to 14, tying the German record held by Gerd “Der Bomber” Mueller and leaving Klose only one goal shy of the World Cup record of 15 held by Brazil’s Ronaldo.
Forward Thomas Mueller, no relation to his namesake, scored once and so did defender Arne Friedrich.
Germany took the lead in the third minute and never looked back. It was a motivated and tactically flawless performance, one that was unreservedly praised by Coach Joachim Low.
“What the team showed in terms of determination to win was the sort of thing you would expect from champions,” Low said. “It was absolute class.”
Indeed, Germany, with its fast-paced and fluid style, served notice that it is the side to beat now that the two South American powers, Argentina and Brazil, have been eliminated.
Certainly, the Netherlands, Spain and Uruguay will have something to say about that, but none of those other semifinalists have managed to bang in 13 goals while allowing only two.
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, had predicted victory. So had Paul, the prognosticating octopus.
Merkel, who had hardly settled into her seat at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town before Mueller gave Germany the lead after 180 seconds, said it would be 2-1 in favor of Die Mannschaft.
Paul, from his tank in the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, had not provided a score, but he appeared even more confident of victory than Merkel
“I didn’t start to feel good about it until we went ahead, 4-0,” the chancellor said. Considering that the final goal, Klose’s second, came in the 89th minute, Merkel should have been comfortable by then.
Politicians, unlike octopi, are a cautious lot.
Germany’s victory, which sent it on to play Spain on Wednesday, was the result of meticulous planning by Low and his coaching staff.
Low had said beforehand that he had spotted a weakness in Argentina’s team, but did not elaborate. In the game, the weakness became apparent – gaping holes in the South American side’s midfield that the Germans were quick to exploit.
For Argentina, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Maradona’s side had looked impressive in its run to the quarterfinals and boasted, on paper at least, the best forward line in the tournament.
But in front of a crowd of 64,100 on a sunny afternoon in Cape Town, those forwards, including world player of the year Lionel Messi, were foiled by a German defense that chased and harried and denied them throughout.
“This is the toughest moment in my life – having so many good people, so many good professionals, so many great players – this is really like a kick in the face,” Maradona said. “I have no more energy for anything.”