Germany have not been spared the hefty assignments on their route through this FIFA World Cup 2010, and six days after seeing off England 4-1 they find themselves up against an Argentina team bristling with ambition.
The two sides come face to face for the sixth time at this level, having locked horns notably in the 1986 and 1990 Finals, and with three wins, a draw and a solitary defeat from those encounters, Die Nationalmannschaft will be confident of prevailing once again. For Germany, this is their 15th consecutive quarter-final appearance but they can expect a testing assignment against an Albiceleste side determined to have their say.
After these two global titans have left the stage, the final last-eight game at South Africa 2010 will pit European champions Spain against obdurate South American opposition in Paraguay, who have leaked just one goal since the start of the tournament. Italy went all the way to the Trophy in 2006 with just a single goal conceded but can Paraguay really shut out the Spanish?
Argentina-Germany, Cape Town, 16.00
Paraguay-Spain, Johannesburg (Ellis Park), 20.30
The big game
Four years on from being forced to settle their quarter-final on penalties, Argentina and Germany meet again at the same stage of the competition. The context is different this time, with Joachim Low’s men playing with great understanding and winning over neutrals everywhere with their slick, forward-thinking play. The injection of fresh talent epitomised by Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller has yielded fruit, with the support of more senior stalwarts such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose. This may be the youngest squad Germany have taken to a FIFA World Cup in 76 years, but Low’s emerging stars are more than ready and already boast plenty of experience with their clubs.
As for Argentina, there is a familiar look to their line-up, with two tireless holding midfielders shielding their defence, a diminutive genius waving his wand to build attacks and a rich seam of gifted marksmen vying for places further forward. Add in the unrivalled charisma of coach Diego Maradona and you have an ambitious, talented side determined to lift the Trophy for a third time – with Germany simply the next obstacle to be overcome.
Justo Villar v Spain’s forwards
Life has been good for Paraguay goalkeeper Villar in South Africa so far, with only outgoing champions Italy able to find the back of his net in four outings. The 33-year-old might just be starting to feel a twinge of anxiety, though, as he prepares to be reacquainted with some familiar faces from the Spanish Liga. Villar has served between the sticks for Real Valladolid since 2008 and last season shipped no fewer than 13 goals against Barcelona and Valencia, with David Villa registering twice and both Xavi Hernandez and Pedro also scoring.
Those experiences will have steeled him for what looks set to be another busy encounter, between a Paraguay side preferring to keep things tight at the back and wait for openings and the one-touch, pass-and-move specialists Spain, whose attacking potential is second to none. Just thinking about it would be enough to give some goalkeepers a migraine.
What they said
“I lost my bet [with Maradona] because I didn’t score, but my intention now is to offer him double or nothing,” Lionel Messi, Argentina forward.