The dream is over for Diego Maradona. Argentina were outclassed and soundly beaten in Cape Town today, denying the Maradona-Messi fairytale the happy ending many had longed to see.
The Germans gave another masterclass in how to tear a team to shreds on the break. Miroslav Klose scored twice to take his career tally to 14 World Cup goals, one short of Ronaldo’s record. Arne Friedrich and Thomas Müller added the others to complete a beating that couldn’t have been any more comprehensive.
The Germans played as they did against England, taking an early lead through Müller. Man of the match Bastian Schweinsteiger curled a free kick in from the left hand touchline which Müller rose to head in from close range.
Once they had taken the lead, Germany absorbed everything Argentina had to throw at them before launching incisive counter attacks of their own. As Argentina grew frustrated Lionel Messi dropped deeper and deeper seeking to influence the play, toiling without any tangible reward.
As the Argentines grew weary the Germans appeared to find extra energy from within. First Podolski broke clear before crossing for Klose to tap in from a few yards. It was the striker’s 100th cap and 51st international goal and took him level with the great Gerd Müller in the all time finals scoring charts.
Number three came after Schweinsteiger barged through the week Argentine defence, crossing from the byline to set up another tap in, this time for Arne Friedrich. In the final minute Mezut Özil crossed for Klose to finish well, another poacher’s goal Der Bomber would have been proud of.
Schweinsteiger dominated the midfield, something Argentina skipper Javier Mascherano was seemingly powerless to prevent. Tevez and Higuain struggled to create any clear chances while the back four looked porous at best. Heinze, Burdisso, Demichelis and Otamendi looked ponderous and failed to cope with the pace and intensity of the Germans in much the same way John Terry and Matthew Upson had a week ago.
As the second half progressed Maradona cut a more desperate figure. He shouted and gesticulated but all in vein, his team were beaten by the better side. Shortly after the third goal tears began to fall from eyes that had burned so brightly during those confident midweek press conferences.
Messi will end this tournament without a goal to his name, a harsh fact that certainly fails to reflect the quality of his play. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be for pupil or master and Argentina must travel home. Having been so close to failing to qualify they have exceeded expectations this summer but romantics around the globe will mourn the death of a bizarre yet captivating dream.
We may never see Maradona participate in another World Cup but must at least console ourselves with the fact that Messi will certainly be back. What’s more, he will have a point to prove on Brazilian soil in 2014. For their part, Germany continue to improve and are beginning to resemble potential world champions.