Six days after turfing England out of the World Cup with a magical display, Germany once again cast their spell on Argentina with a brilliant quarter-final performance. Argentina were buried thanks to a third-minute goal from Thomas Muller and two second-half efforts from Miroslav Klose either side of one from Arne Friedrich. Even Diego Maradona would have appreciated the German strikers had he not been in the opposite dug-out; An imperious masterclass from a side on the march. Games of this magnitude can often be dull, sterile affairs, where two giants cancel each other out completely. This spectacle belied the trend 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 as well known. But over the past week Joachim Loew's team have made some statement. The first German goal came from a goalkeeping error. When Nicolas Otamendi brought Podolski down by the touchline, the start of what turned out to be a tortuous opening period for the young full-back, 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 a good 15 minutes, those famous blue and white shirts were seen twisting and turning in all directions as they tried to keep their opponents at bay. Klose wasted a golden opportunity to double the advantage when Muller capitalised on Gabriel Heinze's error and squared for the veteran frontman. On his 100th appearance, it should have been his 51st goal. But he rushed the opportunity and side-footed over. Too young to be considered for Germany's triumphant Under 21 squad at last summer's European Championships, what a year Muller has had. In reaching the Champions League final with Bayern Munich, he had already confirmed himself as one of the best young players in the world.
On successive weekends, both England and Argentina have discovered the 20-year-old is a rich talent as well. Unfortunately, football can be a cruel sport and a harsh booking for handball means the youngster will miss Wednesday's semi-final in Durban. After being hurt so badly so quickly, Argentina at least managed to clear their heads and began to respond. The problem was Germany's defence was rock solid, their movement choreographed superbly. Messi tried to sparkle but he was forced further back to gain meaningful possession, and then surrounded instantly to ensure there was no escape. Another star name destined to leave South Africa without making a significant mark, or scoring a goal, Messi did his best with the scraps that were offered without making the mesmerising burst or defence-splitting pass his team craved.
On the touchline, Maradona stood, knowing the difference between a great player and the absolute best is their ability to produce when the pressure is at its greatest, as he did in 1986. Since then, Germany have gained revenge, both in the 1990 final and the quarter-final four years ago. In his amusing dismissal of England, the German captain Philipp Lahm said he wanted to win today, inside 90 minutes, for his country to finally defeat a big team. It was time for his youthful teammates to announce their arrival. First, a prone Muller stabbed the ball into space and set Podolski free to present Klose with a tap-in. Then, pushing forward even though the game was won, Friedrich was on hand to finish from close range after Schweinsteiger had cut through the Argentine defence like a knife through butter. Klose finished the rout to take his World Cup goal tally to 13, one behind Gerd Muller. Another four goals. England and Argentina are kindred spirits tonight. * PA