Olympiastadion, Berlin, 30.06.2006
Argentina

4-2 PSO (0-0, 1-1, 1-1aet)
Klose 80. / Ayala 49.
Penalties: Neuville 1-0; Cruz 1-1; Ballack 2-1; Ayala SAVED; Podolski 3-1; Maxi Rodríguez 3-2; Borowski 4-2; Cambiasso SAVED

The Nationalmannschaft’s convincing victory over Sweden had swept them into the last eight on a wave of rekindled popular support, and for many German football had reclaimed its rightful place amongst the world’s élite. The side had not beaten one of football’s world powers for more than five years – the 1-0 victory over England at Wembley in 2000 – yet confidence would be high ahead of their meeting with Argentina in Berlin’s Olympiastadion.

Like the Germans, José Pekerman’s side had reached the quarter-finals with very little fuss – and had impressed the watching world with a number of classy displays, the highlight being a six-goal rout of dark horses Serbia. Topping a tough first-phase group that had included the Serbs, a much-fancied Netherlands side and Africa’s finest in the form of the Côte d’Ivoire, Argentina would then come back from behind to beat a spirited Mexico 2-1 in extra-time to book their afternoon in Berlin.

While the world’s pundits favoured the Albiceleste, the statistical records would favour Jürgen Klinsmann’s side: overall, the South Americans would have the better record with seven wins from seventeen games against the Germans’ five, but in the four FIFA World Cup matches played between the two teams the Germans had the edge with two wins (1958, 1990), one defeat (1986) and one draw (1966). Then there would be the additional advantage of playing at home in front of over seventy-thousand people.

The German Nationaltrainer would have a full-strength squad at his disposal once again, and found himself able to select the same eleven that had started against the Swedes. There would be no change to the 4-4-2 system that had produced four straight victories, with strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski leading the line in front of a confident midfield quartet that had a balance of style and steel.

Slovak referee Ľuboš Micheľ would lead both sides out to rapturous applause from the home supporters, and apart from a few patches of light blue the stadium would be full of German flags. The home side would once again be wearing their traditional Schwarz und Weiß ensemble, while the Argentine opponents would be kitted out in their change colours of dark blue shirts, black shorts and dark blue socks.

[match report]

With just ten minutes remaining, Miroslav Klose steals in front of the Argentinian defence to head in the equaliser

Elfmeterkiller Jens Lehmann dives to his left to deny Esteban Cambiasso, and Germany are in the semi-final

Not content to lose with dignity, the Argentinians spark off an on-field scuffle after the match. The incident would see man of the match Torsten Frings miss the semi-final against Italy.

The drama would not end with the nail-biting Elfmeterschießen, however. Clearly put out by their defeat, the Argentinians would react in a manner that had sadly become all too common. Rather than accepting the fate with dignity, they instead chose to spark off a mass-brawl that would see everyone from players, substitutes and officials get involved.

In the 1990 Argentina had become the first team to have a player sent off in the World Cup final – also against Germany – and in Berlin they would set yet another unsavoury disciplinary record when unused substitute Leandro Cufré became the first man to be shown a red card after the final whistle following an unprovoked assault on Per Mertesacker. Everyone waded in, kicks and punches were thrown, and even German team manager Oliver Bierhoff found himself at the centre of the melée.

While the Argentinians would once again parade their inability to take defeat like men and leave the tournament in disgrace, the post-match fracas would also affect the German team. No doubt provoked by an opponent, midfielder Torsten Frings was seen to have thrown a badly-aimed punch at Julio Cruz – with the pictures being highlighted by an Italian television station Sky Italia.

Frings – Germany’s Man of the Match and one of the core players in the Mannschaft’s successful midfield quartet – would receive a one-match ban (two matches with one suspended), ruling him out of the semi-final in Dortmund. It would be a bizarre decision, particularly given FIFA’s earlier decision not to take action against the German players. Frings’ suspension and the role of the Italian media would provide the obvious twist ahead of the semi-final, where Germany’s opponents would be… Italy.

Germany: Lehmann – Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm – Schneider (62. Odonkor), Frings, Ballack (c), Schweinsteiger (74. Borowski) – Klose (86. Neuville), Podolski

Argentina: Abbondanzieri (71. Franco) – Coloccini, Ayala, Heinze, Sorín – González, Mascherano, Maxi Rodríguez – Riquelme (72. Cambiasso) – Tévez, Crespo (79. Cruz)

Referee: Ľuboš Micheľ (Slovakia)
Assistants: Roman Slysko (Slovakia), Martin Balko (Slovakia)
Fourth Official: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
Fifth Official: Francesco Buragina (Switzerland)

Yellow Cards: Podolski, Odonkor, Friedrich / Sorín, Mascherano, Maxi Rodríguez, Cruz
Red Cards: – / –

Attendance: 72,000

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