Germany crush Argentina

CAPE TOWN - Germany outclassed Argentina 4-0 with a superb attacking display to hand their old rivals their worst World Cup defeat in 52 years and reach the semi-finals on Saturday.

Diego Maradona's team, among the favourites after four successive wins at the tournament, had only brief spells of control in the quarter-final from the moment Thomas Muller headed Joachim Low's Germans into a third-minute lead.

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Much was expected from Lionel Messi, who was still looking for his first goal at the finals, but Argentina hardly threatened Manuel Neuer's goal as they were easily knocked off their close passing game.

It was Argentina's worst World Cup defeat since the 1958 finals in Sweden when they lost 6-1 to Czechoslovakia, as their reliance on a sometimes naive passing game was exposed by a fast European side with precision passes and running into space.

Rather than avenging a defeat on penalties by Germany at the same stage of the 2006 finals, Argentina were definitely second best at the Green Point stadium.

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"Today our team was incredibly convincing in our defensive play to totally neutralise Messi," Low told a news conference.

"What the team showed today in terms of determination to win was the sort you would expect from champions, also the ambition they showed, the speed and attacking tempo we showed in the second half, it was absolute class."

A deflated Maradona told reporters: "This was like a punch from Muhammad Ali.

"(But) it doesn't knock my pride in my players because I know the result is not a reflection of what happened on the pitch. They put in their chances, we also had some."

He added it was too early to discuss his own future.

"I could go tomorrow, but I want these kids to go on showing the real Argentine football," he said. "(Messi) had a great World Cup ... (he didn't score) because the ball lifted or goalkeepers were their teams' stars."

BRILLIANT BASTIAN

Bastian Schweinsteiger, commanding in the middle, was superb marshalling the Germans' counter-attacks with the help of the creative Mesut Ozil.

Javier Mascherano was often overrun as he tried to do the job of two men in the middle for Argentina while Maradona paid the price for opting against fielding veteran Juan Sebastian Veron, who might have steadied the team and brought depth to their passing.

Muller slipped away from Argentina's defence at a Schweinsteiger free-kick from the left wing to head home at the near post and put Germany one up after just three minutes with his fourth goal of the finals.

Argentina nearly conceded a second close to the half hour but Klose, alone in the middle, shot over the bar.

Gonzalo Higuain, who has scored four goals at his first finals, had the ball in the German net late in the first half but it was ruled offside.

Argentina came out for the second half determined to take the game to the Germans but Loew's side held out with winger Angel Di Maria coming closest with a left-footed shot from the right that went just wide of the far post.

Klose, who took his World Cup tally to 14, one short of Brazilian Ronaldo's record, tapped in the second from Lucas Podolski's low cross from the left in the 68th minute and rounded off the rout in the 89th with a volley from Ozil's cross.

In between, veteran defender Arne Friedrich scored his first international goal.

Man-of-the-match Schweinsteiger, speaking on German television, said: "We may have to play Spain next - they're the best team in the world, in my view. But we're good enough, we believe in ourselves."

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