Classic in store as hosts meet old rivals
BERLIN, June 29: Germany and Argentina were responsible for one of the worst World Cup finals ever played when they last met at this level in 1990 in Rome.
There is little danger of another clash of such cynicism and sterility 16 years on in Berlin tomorrow when the best young attacking teams in the tournament meet in the quarter-final.
''Argentina are a top team but we know we can beat them,'' Germany's leading striker Miroslav Klose said ahead of a game that will be eagerly watched by 72,000 at the Olympiastadion and hundreds of millions around the world.
''And we really want this victory.'' Germany, the three-times World Cup winners, have taken to their home tournament with the zeal of a convert, abandoning their old caution and pouring players forward in support of Klose and his 21-year-old strike partner Lukas Podolski.
The pair have scored seven of Germany's 10 goals in four straight wins against Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador and Sweden.
Germany's new commitment to attacking play is a tribute to the revolution worked by Juergen Klinsmann, who was part of the West Germany team that beat Argentina 1-0 in that terrible 1990 clash to avenge their 3-2 defeat in the Mexico '86 final.
Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been moved to wonder, ''Who can stop these Germans?'' Argentina, who won the World Cup in 1978 as well as 1986, might have the answer.
Their quick-witted forwards have supplied the tournament's best moments, including a 6-0 win over Serbia&Montenegro that will live long in the memory.
Argentina also beat Ivory Coast and drew with Netherlands before sealing victory over Mexico thanks to a wonderful goal from midfielder Maxi Rodriguez.
Luis Gonzalez has recovered from a groin injury and should be fit to play at right midfield.
But fullback Nicolas Burdisso is still doubtful with a knee injury. The speedy Leandro Cufre is likely to deputise ahead of Lionel Scaloni, who played against Mexico, and Fabricio Coloccini, Burdisso's replacement against Netherlands.
Klinsmann will name his first choice team.
Germany have not beaten one of the game's major powers since a 1-0 win over England in October, 2000, although they came close in two 2-2 draws with Argentina in 2005.
If tomorrow's game is all-square after 90 minutes then Germany would surely be the favourites to win in front of a partisan crowd during extra-time and perhaps even penalties.
''If I'm on the pitch I wouldn't have a problem taking a penalty,'' said Lionel Messi, who will likely come on as a substitute. ''But I wouldn't like to get to that stage.
''I'd rather settle it in the 90 minutes or in extra time like (we did) against Mexico.''
Probable teams: Germany (4-4-2): 1-Jens Lehmann; 3-Arne Friedrich, 21-Christoph Metzelder, 17-Per Mertesacker, 16-Philipp Lahm; 19-Bernd Schneider, 8-Torsten Frings, 13-Michael Ballack, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger; 20-Lukas Podolski, 11-Miroslav Klose Coach: Juergen Klinsmann
Argentina (4-4-2): 1-Roberto Abbondanzieri; 17-Leandro Cufre, 2-Roberto Ayala, 6-Gabriel Heinze, 3-Juan Pablo Sorin; 22-Luis Gonzalez, 8-Javier Mascherano, 10-Juan Roman Riquelme, 18-Maxi Rodriguez; 7-Javier Saviola, 9-Hernan Crespo Coach: Jose Pekerman