Are Germany a better team than Argentina? No. So how did they manage to lose a game which was theirs for the taking? Jose Pekerman, made mistake after mistake.
The first half was a tactical battle. Argentina dominated possession and Germany, conscious of their defensive weakness, got eleven men behind the ball. Things should have opened up in the second after Ayala’s header gave Argentina the lead on 48 minutes. However instead of going for the jugular, Pekerman decided to try to hold on to his lead. He took off his creative fulcrum Riquelme for Cambiasso. He then compounded his error by bringing on the immobile Julio Cruz, who has hardly featured in this tournament for Hernan Crespo.
Riquelme should have stayed on the pitch - his passes could have unpicked the German defence. Further, Saviola or Messi should have come on instead of Cruz - both are small and quick and would have tested the tiring German central defenders more. As a result Germany gained the initiative and Klose’s header 11 minutes from brought the scores level. With three minutes to go, Lahm brought down Maxi and Argentina should have had a penalty. Instead, referee Lubos Michel booked Maxi for diving and the game went into extra time.
With both teams looking tired, penalties looked inevitable and when they arrived there was little doubt that the Germans would come out on top. When Cambiasso’s penalty was saved by Lehmann to hand them a semi-final berth, they celebrated a little too much for the Argentineans liking and Leandro Cufre showed his annoyance by launching a karate kick at Per Mertesacker, prompting a small fight.
At the press conference following the match, Pekerman failed to acknowledge his mistakes during the game but did resign. Argentina should have gone further.