Saturday, July 03, 2010

"Mit der Bang, mit der Boom, mit der Bing-Bang Bing-Bang Boom..."

SO it was nothing like anything before, after all.
None of the closeness of, in their different ways, 1986 or four years later – even if today’s game was settled by Klose.
No chance for Messi to squeeze a match-winning performance out of himself – or the German defence – as Maradona had ultimately done 24 years ago.
Nor the kind of Argentine self-combustion, or German drabness, that characterised the turning of the tables four years later.
Argentina even took today’s 4-0 quarter-final trouncing with good grace, Maradona raging but perhaps mostly at himself – Messi sunk in sad resignation, before sobbing behind closed dressing-room doors.
But it was the way Germany performed such a demolition job that was both brutal and unique – unless you were to count, say, last Sunday’s dismantling of England.
This was another devastating display by Joachim Low’s renovated, re-energised side, doing the unpicking of Argentina that many had forecast – but not in quite such an exhilarating fashion.
Perhaps it was the early goal that was most important, slackness from Nicholas Otamendi – for the first but not the last time today, alas – allowing young-man-of-the-moment Thomas Muller to glance Germany into the lead.
How they might recover from going behind is a challenge for Spain or (presumably not) Paraguay to discover.
Yet for all the Argentine pressure to respond, the probing of Messi or the usual lung-busting from Tevez, the German defence proved impregnable throughout.
Messi was restricted to daftly-lofted, long range shots, while Di Maria stayed bafflingly isolated out on the right – barely given a run down his more natural left, though even there he might well have been stymised by the impeccable Philipp Lahm.
As against England, a 15-20-minute spell at the start of the second half looked the most likely time for an equaliser, but Germany remained stout – parking the VW camper van, perhaps?
Mertesacker and Friedrich hardly allowed any space behind them, while Schweinsteiger and Khedira maintained a kind of forcefield in front – and confident young ‘keeper Manuel Neuer gave an uncompromising wallop to any cross coming his way.
Schweinsteiger was, as against England, immense – performing both a composed role as a defensive shield, ushering the ball out of defence and into attack with briskness, and again occasionally remembering he used to be a pretty decent winger.
The slithering run through the Argentine defence, to tee up Germany’s third for Friedrich, was Messi-esquely irresistible – even if said Argentine defence included the lesser-tackling likes of Higuain and Di Maria.
Even when Argentina were battering at Germany’s door without the merest shaving slicing off, Maradona was maybe to slow to refresh his own, increasingly tired-looking team.
Milito was about to come on, perhaps for a blunt-again Higuain, only for Podolski’s scything run and Klose’s poached finish to double Germany’s lead – and effectively settle the game.
Pastore was eventually given 20 minutes to add to his meagre 16 before now, while Veron stayed on the bench throughout – presumably injured, especially since his presence had allegedly helped keep Cambiasso and Zanetti cast out of the squad.
But by the end, Argentina looked and were well-beaten, suffocated at one end and exposed at the other by a German team high on high-energy youth and vigour, counter-attacking cleverness – and unselfish teamwork.
Spain look about the most likely – or even the only – side who could outpass and outclass them. Simply by denying even these Germans the ball, especially with Muller so harshly suspended.
Schweinsteiger’s passing stats from today – just 52 from 84 were actually completed – are somewhat surprising, much less impressive or describe than his overall performance really proved to be.
No such supposed ‘slacking’ is likely from Spain. But now it’s Germany setting a very high standard, not necessarily for dominating possession but doing the most ruthless things with the ball.
Ruthless and efficient, those hoary old clichés – but undoubtedly attractive as well.

No comments: