Soccer’s perennial World Cup underachievers from the Netherlands knocked off mighty Brazil on Friday, stamping the Dutch as a strong contender to finally win that elusive title.
Argentina’s thrashing by Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals Saturday — a day after Brazil was unceremoniously shown the door by the Dutch squad — was a crushing blow to the collective pride in a region where soccer is religion and where expectations of a championship ran high.
After watching the national team go down, 4-0, to far superior Germany, fans wept openly at the downtown Buenos Aires obelisk where thousands had gathered to view the game on enormous TV screens.
Miroslav Klose capped his 100th Germany appearance in style as his dazzling double left gutted Diego Maradona on the verge of quitting as Argentina boss.
Although Maradona secured his status as a World Cup legend in a memorable quarter-final 24 years ago,yesterday he was forced to bow to Klose as the Bayern Munich striker made history of his own by taking his all-time tournament tally to 14.
That moved Klose level with countryman Gerd Muller in the hall of fame and just one goal shy of Brazilian star Ronaldo’s all-time record.
Despite thrashing England 4-1 in the last 16, the Germans were considered underdogs heading into their clash with Maradona’s men. But a goalkeeping blunder from Sergio Romero gifted Muller an early opener and confidence soared through Germany’s side.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure as Argentina struggled to break down the German defense. And a series of deadly counter-attacks saw Klose strike either side of Friedrich’s first international goal to cap a sensational victory.
Argentina’s Loss creates huge controversy
Argentina wasn’t the only country in mourning. Six South American teams made it into the tournament’s second round; but only Uruguay will play against Holland in the semifinals this Tuesday.
But for Argentina, a country obsessed with the sport, the loss hit especially hard.
It’s been a controversial World Cup. Officials have blown crucial calls but eschewed instant replay. The French team mutinied against its coach and didn’t make it to the second round. Nigeria’s president, Good luck Jonathan, formed a special commission to reorganize soccer after the national team failed to win a single game.
Many Argentine fans took it as an article of faith that their team — led by Maradona, who as a player led the squad to its 1986 World Cup victory but who had no experience as the national coach — would advance to the finals, possibly taking home the coveted trophy. However, Germany was so dominant that it stripped the Argentina squad naked, exposing its “technical disorder.”
On Friday, Argentina’s neighbor, soccer rival and tournament favorite Brazil, was beaten, 2-1, by the Netherlands, provoking a similar round of soul-searching and second-guessing among soccer-mad fans.
Only time will tell what teams enter the 3rd place game?