We'd seen this one before. Defend badly against Germany and its trident of direct forwards will tear you apart. It ripped through Australia, ripped through England and the only twist in Surprisingly Simple Victory III: the Quarterfinal was that Argentina's fault wasn't to play too high a defensive line but for its defenders to stand around watching Germans run past them. And that
This is a Germany side whose great strength is its organization and efficiency; for all the talk of a new Germany, and perhaps its players now are more technical and less physically imposing, it is still the simple old virtues that carry it through. It doesn't have great dribblers, its wingers are quick and forthright rather than subtle, and its one player of really outstanding quality is
Given Germany's ability on the counter, the last thing Argentina needed was to concede an early goal; three minutes in, though, and it was behind, and to a goal that was eminently avoidable, even if it did begin with a superb run and long pass from Schweinsteiger out to
Thereafter, Germany was able to sit deep, frustrate Argentina, and wait to pick its opponents off as soon as it overcommitted. It took a long time before that happened, but equally Argentina rarely threatened against a highly impressive defense.
The game was effectively won after 68 minutes, Muller, from a prone position, hooking the ball into the box as the hapless Otamendi and
Then, like England, Argentina, having gone two behind rapidly went three behind. Maradona, understandably, sacrificed Otamendi, brought on
Can Germany be stopped? Of course it can, as Serbia proved. The key thing is not to concede the opening goal, because Germany is ruthless on the counter-attack. How, though, to do that? Well, the odd thing is how many sides have gifted Germany the lead. Podolski's opener against Australia at least was the result of swift inter-passing between Mesut Ozil and Muller, although it was aided by hapless marking. Ozil goal against Ghana was spectacular, but both England and Argentina handed Germany its first goal, England by letting Klose run on to a long goal kick, and Argentina with slack marking.
Ozil can be subdued, as Mascherano showed, but beyond that it just takes proper defending. Azerbaijan and Finland both frustrated Germany in qualifying by getting men behind the ball and closing down space, for this is not an especially skilful Germany side. It is efficient, it does the simple things well, but its eye-catching victories have all been against sides who have almost gone out of their way to make things easy for them.