Advantage Germany at half-time

Argentina 0 Germany 1

Argentina 0 Germany 1

Thomas Muller’s third-minute opener gave Germany the advantage in a breathless World Cup quarter-final with Argentina in Cape Town today.

The man who scored twice against England last weekend was on target again to head home Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free-kick.

However, he also collected a booking for handball that will rule him out of a semi-final against either Spain or Paraguay if Germany make it through.

Games of this magnitude can often be dull, sterile affairs, where two giants cancel each other out completely.

But this spectacular never had a chance of being that way.

An Argentina team containing Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez, managed by one of the most creative forces there has ever been, is not exactly set up to defend.

Germany’s talents are not quite as well known. But over the past week they have made some statement.

Wherever he was watching, Fabio Capello must have at least taken some comfort from the fact England are not the only ones to suffer against this fine, young team. Nor are they the only ones with a keeper prone to make errors.

When Nicolas Otamendi brought Lukas Podolski down by the touchline, the start of what turned out to be a tortuous opening period for the young full-back, the excellent Bastian Schweinsteiger curled the free-kick to the near post.

Muller escaped Otamendi’s attentions and rose unchallenged.

The youngster should have sent a firm header into the corner. Instead, he got the faintest touch which deceived Sergio Romero, who must have thought he was going to be beaten anyway.

It shot off the Argentina keeper’s leg and rolled into the net.

For quarter of an hour afterwards, it seemed the South Americans would be swept away, such was the sublime mastery their opponents showed at transferring possession from left to right, carving huge chunks out of Argentina’s defence.

Otamendi was eventually booked for a foul on Arne Friedrich and Podolski had a shot deflected wide before Gabriel Heinze’s mistake offered Muller the opportunity to charge into the Argentina box.

He might have been too raw to be considered for the victorious Germany U-21 side in the European Championships last summer but Muller has learned a lot in his stellar season with Bayern Munich.

The 20-year-old was aware enough to spot Miroslav Klose to his left and set the veteran frontman up for what should have been his 51st goal on his 100th appearance for his country.

But Klose rushed his chance and the ball flashed over.

For Argentina, it was the catalyst for improvement. Still waiting for his first goal in South Africa, Messi cranked his team into action.

The Barcelona star curled one free-kick over, then Angel Di Maria cut inside Friedrich and tested Manuel Neuer with a low shot, so with Tevez buzzing round in his usual industrious manner, Argentina were much more threatening.

Not that Germany had entirely lost their punch.

Podolski’s 25-yard strike curled narrowly wide and Muller’s goalbound effort was deflected off target before Schweinsteiger fired over from the edge of the box.

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