The World's Blog: Day 21

How long should it take to get breathing back to normal... a day, maybe three? It may be a while before our Spanish blogger recovers from today's quarterfinals. She has until Wednesday.

Germany 4, Argentina 0

I am sitting in the departure lounge of the Cape Town international airport trying to find words that best describe Germany’s performance in the QF game versus Argentina. It’s been a good half an hour and I am still unable to describe it. How do you describe what the young Germans did last night? A young group (most of them in their early 20’s) some of whom were playing in a World Cup for the first time decided that today they were going to dismantle a team many thought were favorites to win the World Cup, a team that boasted of the so called ‘Great' Lionel Messi as well as a host of other ‘World Class’ players like Tevez, Mascherano, Higuain to name a few. And Boy! Did they humiliate Diego Maradona’s side, a 4 – nil thrashing, who would have ever imagined? The setting was perfect, the atmosphere was perfect and thanks to a more than brilliant performance, the score line was PERFECT.

Before the game and to some extent the tournament, I had mentioned that if the Argentinean defense came up against a side with a good attack, they would suffer. That is exactly what happened last night. Scoring first and putting pressure on them was most crucial, and it could not have started better for us, when Mueller headed it in, what a performance this young man has put in. From then on Germany had the upper hand, all we needed is to control the ball and frustrate Argentina, frustrate Messi and not let him settle, the team did just that and did it beautifully.

What was also interesting to see was although Podolski and others marked Messi well, the rest of the team did not leave any of the other strikers open, which was crucial. The team did just about everything right, of course Argentina had their chances, particularly towards the end of the first half and the start of the second but were stung by the German defense. Many pundits and fans think that this team is great while counter attacking and that’s all they can do. Yes, the German counter attacks are probably the best seen so far in this tournament, but I believe that Germany can also create and score. The first goal was a good example of that.

Next up is Spain, it’s a repeat of the Euro 2008 finals but I am confident the score line will be very different this time. Although, Spain have pretty much maintained the same team as two years ago, Germany have bought about many changes in their side from the one that lost the finals in 2008. And that’s the difference, this team is faster, stronger, hungrier and more focused. I have a lot of respect for Spain, they are great team to watch and love to control the ball. Germany must try and stop the ball movement, frustrate Xavi and Iniesta and we will win. It will be tough but it was also tough against Argentina and England. Our counter attacks may not always work as the Spanish defense is solid and fast, therefore we will need to create. Not having Mueller will be a BIG blow for us, but I think Cacau could play in his position. He has been in great form and also creates a lot of chances for the team. We have two games to go, keep the dream alive!

To create an analogy for the Argentina versus Germany game has proven to be difficult. It appeared to be, all puns aside, a clash of the titans. Both teams, having rolled over their competition in the round of 16, come into the quarterfinals matchup brimming with confidence. In four games Argentina have scored ten goals- Germany, nine. The Argentines have advanced without a single goal from Lionel Messi, their, and the world's star. Neither team has drawn, it's win- or don't. Argentina haven't lost this World Cup, Germany has lost once, 1-0. In the quarterfinals Argentina thrashed Mexico 3-1 while Germany trounced England, 4-1. Knowing these things, the way to emphasize the magnitude of this match up was this: today's game between La Albiceleste and Die Mannschaft features two goliaths of the soccer world, two beings so powerful and effectual, that it could fool incognizant onlookers into thinking it was a World Cup Final. And today, in Green Point Stadium, Argentina played as if it were their final, yet in every imaginable way, it wasn't good enough.

Against the Germans, the Argentines were simply outplayed, outcoached, and in the end ousted in the midst a dream run that would have seen Diego Maradona enshrined as a god among men. Instead of ticker tape parades, a boom of children named Lionel, Carlos, and Gonzalo, along with a third World Cup title, La Albiceleste were silenced. An explosive offense- muzzled. A joyous, rambunctious, and often controversial coach- subdued. A three pronged attack which saw ten goals in four matches- blanked. Germany dominated in every facet of the game. From the opening kick off to the four goals poured in, almost at will even, Die Mannschaft proved to be the better of the two sides.

If one were to look at the stats, the game could, and should have belonged to Argentina. The men in white and sky blue out shot the Germans, had more corner kicks, and more time of possession. Regardless of the numbers, Argentina's first shot wasn't on goal until the 34th minute. Meanwhile, the Germans took the air out of the Argentines early. A set piece from the near sideline in the third minute saw a right footed cross swing into the box, and Thomas Müller shed his defender and finish with ease. As easily as Müller shook off Nicolás Otamendi, the German offense shook off the Argentine defense. Miroslav Klose added a goal in the 68th minute, Arne Friedrich in the 74th, and Klose struck again in the waning moments, all but erasing any memories of Argentina's wonderful run up to this point. It wasn't until Schweinsteiger cut through Argentina's defense for the third goal that Argentina fans realized their heart had been cut out. The joy and elation felt during the previous four wins was all but erased, and as my head hung in my hands, a nation of people with high hopes, and perhaps dreams of hoisting a third World Cup title- all gave up.

So how will Argentina's 2010 World Cup be remembered? Will it go down as the tournament that should have been? The tournament that could have been? Will it be remembered because the greatest player alive, and the most promising, talented group Argentina has sent out in many years- for lack of another word, failed? For the past three weeks fans have been treated to an offensive showcase, leaving them breathless and eager at the same time. But for as long and joyous these three weeks have been, it was halted in 90 short minutes. Now the long, long, long four year wait begins, and as player after player returns to their club team, so too will leagues of fans. Some will follow Messi with Barcelona and some will follow Tèvez at Manchester City. Some will follow Higuaín with Real Madrid, and some... well... some simply won't choose to follow for a while. The pain, right now, is unbearable. The very thought of soccer hurts. The pain of a 4-0 thrashing hurts, and right now, it's just easier to let wounds heal as far from the game as possible. Count me in the latter group, for as long as Argentina have been eliminated, I'll be watching from afar, wishing for and thinking about what could have been.

Spain 1, Paraguay 0

How long should it take to get breathing back to normal . . . a day, maybe three?   I hope to be back to normal in time for the next round of dramatics on display by La Furia Roja.  After practically being catatonic with boredom during the first half of "play" you would think that I would have had enough rest to make it through both shouting long streams of what I'll refer to as "encouragement" to the ref to call a fair game and holding my breath for every Spanish possession in most of the 2nd half.  Honestly where was the red card for Alcoraz off that foul on David Villa; if bogus yellow cards are being thrown around why not give a true red when one is deserved?!? 

Either way two penalty shots blocked by both keepers and captains and we're still at 0-0; can that really be (the past 80 years beg to differ)?  Onward the Spanish march as if working like one of those puzzles with a mixed-up picture and only one empty space to move all the pieces around in to try to figure it out . . . that finally came, the picture finally became clear . . . it was to be as it has been during this World Cup for Espana, a DAVID VILLA goal off a rebound in the 83'!!!  Forget the obvious foul on Fabregas after Alonso's missed re-attempt at the PK, forget a first half of fumbles and flops, forget the statistics and history fighting La Furia since the start of this World Cup; Spain will not fall short of their destiny in THIS World Cup!

In looking to Wednesday my thoughts are these:  While some are shocking (there hasn't been TWO PKs stopped in one World Cup game since 1930) and some are worth taking a shot at the chance to prove history wrong (Spain has not outright won in a Quarterfinal game); my eyes are on the prize . . . no team has lost their first game and gone on to win the World Cup . . . Espana is here to change that too!

Connor Burns
Username: connorb3

Well, it was close. Not many people thought that would even be the case. Paraguay fought their hearts out and followed the formula to beat Spain, but it just wasn't meant to be. Call the way the Paraguay played boring, call it anti-football, but it's effective against teams that control the ball. And arguably it worked to perfection when Nelson Valdez got on the end of a long ball and tucked it away. Unfortunately, the offsides flag was up. The only way I can see this goal being disallowed is if Cardozo, who was in an offside position, had played the ball. He didn't and Valdez was in to score. Still, it seems hardly fair to blame the officials in a game where there were plenty of other chances.

The Paraguayan defense played admirably, controlling Torres and Villa for large portions of the game. My main complaint for Paraguay, and it has been a recurring one, was the play of Cardozo. Never has he captured his club for for the national side, and the inclusion of the explosive Barrios would have been my decision. I would say this without even considering Cardozo's poor performance against Spain, where he was exposed as slow and predictabe by the Spanish defense. The nadir of the performance was the missed penalty. Paraguay, despite having the goal disallowed, won a spot kick after a stupid decision by Pique to pull Cardozo down by the arm.

However, Cardozo's ensuing penalty was easily saved by Casillas. Surely there was someone on the field, on a team that easily scored all their penalties against Japan, who could have taken the kick instead of the most out-of-form player on the squad. The penalty save,along with the addition of Fabregas, seemed to open up the game, and Spain soon had a penalty of their own, with Alcaraz lucky not to be sent off for a last-man foul on Villa. Alonso expertly scored the penalty, but Spain had rushed into the area before the shot was taken, so the kick was taken again. This time it was heroicly saved by Villar, who immediately saved again from Fabregas.

The goalkeepers were immense for both teams, with Villar making several other strong saves and punches and Casillas denying Barrios and Roque Santa Cruz in succession. Despite their efforts, Paraguay was eventually beaten. Iniesta started a strong counter attack, leaving for Pedro, who hit the post. It was all sixes and sevens at the back for Paraguay, and Villa was able to curl in the rebound, by the way of both posts, around da Silva on the line for his fifth goal of the tournament. Paraguay continued to battle, and I really thought Santa Cruz would capitalize on a fumbled save by Casillas, but the Spanish keeper proved why some consider him the best in the world by saving again.

Paraguay gave their fans, myself included, a great tournament. I wish they could have continued for the "Best of the Guays" final game against Uruguay, but in the end, the favorites proved too strong. Paraguay surprised many to make it this far, but not me. I knew they had the quality, and I really thought they could beat Spain. That said, they weren't at all disappointing, and can count themselves amongst the eight best teams in the world.

I'm sad I will have nothing to write about anymore, but I look forward to the rest of the World Cup. An exciting game, and so unfortunate it didn't go our way. It's been a good run, Paraguay. Maybe next time!