Argentina, Germany ready to move war onto the pitch
Cape Town, South Africa (Sports Network) - Argentina and Germany reignited a dormant rivalry four years ago in a World Cup quarterfinal that ended with a melee, and they meet again in the final eight Saturday at Green Point Stadium in what promises to be yet another memorable clash.
Argentina and Germany played in the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals, with each winning once. Four years ago, Germany forced extra time on an 80th-minute goal from Miroslav Klose and won on penalty kicks.
Following the game, the teams exchanged punches and kicks in a scrum Germany's players have not forgotten. Fuel was added to the fire after a friendly match in March, when Argentina manager Diego Maradona mistook Germany player Thomas Muller for a ballboy at the post-match press conference.
Now, in the build-up to Saturday's match, a war of words has ensued as Germans Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm have each questioned Argentina's lack of respect.
Maradona, who played for Argentina in 1986 and 1990, fired back in front of a Fox Sports camera by asking, in his best German accent, if Schweinsteiger was "nervous."
Germany and Argentina didn't need to add anymore attention to a game featuring teams with a combined five World Cup titles, but the latest news has made the quarterfinal as highly-anticipated as any of the four in South Africa.
"There is no fear from us," Schweinsteiger said. "We are confident."
Germany opened the World Cup with an impressive 4-0 win over Australia but the young team, which averages just 25 years of age, dropped a 1-0 match to Serbia.
Since, the dynamic German side has returned to form with a 1-0 win over Ghana, and a 4-1 victory over England in the round of 16. Muller assisted on Mesut Ozil's goal against Ghana, then had two goals and an assist against England.
"Now anything is possible, even if there is a tough nut waiting for us in the next round," said Muller, who also jumped into the war of words this week. The 20-year-old, a threat for Best Young Player, said he will make sure Maradona remembers him after this match.
German veteran Klose stayed out of the discussion this week and said after the win over England the team still has work to do to reach its goal.
"We have always said our goal is the semifinals at least," said Klose, who has played in the last two World Cups when Germany finished second and third.
Argentina cruised through its group with wins over Nigeria, South Korea and Greece by combined scores of 7-1. Argentina then used a pair of goals from Carlos Tevez to defeat Mexico, 3-1, in the round of 16.
Although Argentina has played well in the tournament, Tevez realizes beating Germany "won't be easy."
Nicolas Burdisso is among the Argentina players still around from four years ago, but overlooked the melee in favor of concentrating on a different result.
"The great thing is that the team is improving with every match, and for those of us who were at the last World Cup," Burdisso said, "the Germany match will be a nice opportunity for revenge."
Argentina has not won the World Cup since 1986, when it edged Germany, 3-2. The Germans have not won since 1990, when it won 1-0. So both countries have a lot on the line.
"We're all working hard to achieve something that our country hasn't done for a long time," Argentina goalie Sergio Romero said.