To think that at the end of 90 minutes Argentina had 59% of possession, and that even after 120 minutes at the end of extra time they had 58% possession, you start to wonder where Argentina actually lost the match and where Germany won.
Before the match it was clear that if the match went to penalties, Germany would be favourites to go through. Crowd support (or pressure, depending on whether you are German or Argentine) can be a powerful force, and hearing the German crowd roar after every successful penalty was a striking indication of who controlled the proceedings.
But for all the hard work Klinsmann, Ballack and Germany did, it was Argentina who lost, not Germany who won.
Pekerman’s first mistake was taking off Riquelme at the 72nd minute – just a minute earlier the keeper had to be substituted, and even if Argentina were 1-up you don’t take off your best creative player on the pitch and throw on a defensive midfielder to ‘shore up the lines’. The move was almost English in its naivete. This is the bloody World Cup, and you don’t, you don’t sit on a one goal lead against the home side in the quarter finals, no matter how strong your defense is.
Not only did Pekerman took off the one player who was at the center of all attacks, but he did it right after an injury to their keeper had taken away one of the available subs. But the real stupidity was to come next.
Pekerman chose to bring on Cruz (Argentina’s 5th choice striker) instead of Messi in the 79th minute. Replacing Crespo was not a bad idea, but leaving your fastest and most creative forward on the bench was a tactical error Argentina would not recover from. Deprived of any further substitutions and pushed on the backfoot after Riquelme was replaced and Cruz became ineffective, Gemany were able to hit back almost immediately with Klose at the end of an excellent free kick (thanks to a wicked but subtle deflection by a German head) and he headed it past the substitute Argentine keeper to score the equaliser.
From then on, Argentina could keep possession, break up opposition attacks, let Tevez run at the German defense and let Rodriguez and Gonzalez shoot from long range (What was Gonzalez doing on the pitch today? He was Argentina’s worst player – at least until Cruz came on), but Germany held the upper hand. No matter that Ballack could hardly walk – he would not leave the field and Germany would not give up. They had little possession but it didnt matter as Argentina’s attacks lacked any bite.
Argentina vs Germany – Key Moments
- Shoddy camerawork zooms on Klinsmann and forgets that David Hasselhoff can be seen for a split-second in the crowd.
- Excellent camerawork later on as before a free kick Ayala and Ballack clash. Ballack would later go down quite easily in the penalty area.
- Ballack joins the ranks of such luminaries at the 2006 World Cup as Robben, Essien, Sorin, Cole, Shevchenko and Henry (and so many others) by going to the ground too easily after Ayala’s hand catches him in the face. Why is it that the best players in the world are also prone to making the most out of such tackles? Is it the will to win at any cost?
- Seeing Argentina rebuff Germany’s early attacks and then control the game with consumate ease (at least till the 80th minute) was a treat to the best performance by the South Americans so far.
- Pekerman’s substitution of Riquelme – what on earth was he thinking? For the record this is not anger after seeing Argentina lose, I was shouting at the screen even at the time of the replacement.
- Cruz coming on for Crespo (instead of Messi coming on for Crespo). It was Argentina’s third substitution, and was a total waste.
- Odonkor’s introduction for the Germans. The right-winger is fiery (as evident by his clashes with Sorin and Tevez on the right flank), fast and immediately put Argentina in a spot of bother. To say that his runs kept Argentina occupied would be an understatement.
- The missed penalty by Robert Ayala. Lehmann has had a fantastic time saving penalties recently, although Ayala’s penalty was very, very poor.
- Ballack’s penalty – seeing the hobbling German captain score the second penalty showed his strength and determination that has been evident throughout his career. It’s a shame that he had to resort to simulation in this match.
Congratulations to Germany though – they will face either Italy or Ukraine in 5 days time at Dortmund. To say that it will be as tight as this match (assuming that they meet Italy) is an understatement.
The hosts are through to the semi-finals, with what can only be described as a minor upset – and if you saw the middle 60 minutes of the match you’d say it was a major upset.
On to the next quarter-final, where Italy meet Ukraine.