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Saturday, July 3, 2010
Notes on Argentina's destruction

Notes from the last 10 minutes of Argentina's destruction ...

Jogi Lw picks his team even better than he does his nose. Martin Tyler said it best: "The game went according to his plan and we are watching a team of young men become world beaters before our eyes."

The German coach oozed confidence as he sauntered down the tunnel alongside his team sporting an electric blue V-neck plucked fresh from the closet to set a relaxed, sports-casual tone. Maradona repeated his traditional polyester suit job-interview look. 1-0 Germany.

The Germans opened clinically, determined to prove they were not nervooouussssh at all. In a matchup of dodgy but largely untested defenses, it was fitting the opening goal came quickly from a basic defensive lapse. World Cup poster boy Thomas Mller did the damage. The only surprise was more did not immediately follow. Miroslav Klose blasted over in the 23rd minute when a goal seemed likely.

Argentina was ragged, obsessed with claiming the slightest of ankle taps as limb-flailing fouls. Li'l Leo Messi appeared toothless. Swamped by the enormity of the pressure on his shoulders, he scampered deep into his own half, retreating ever deeper to find the ball. On the odd occasion the chance to shoot was manufactured, he was unable to calibrate. He will have another chance to etch himself into tournament folklore as a 27-year-old in 2014.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were the most exhilarating of the World Cup so far. At one point I swore I could hear the cheer of actual human voices rising above the droning vuvuzelas. Both teams took it in turns to tear each other apart. The Argentines were pouring forward in waves with Angel di Maria a blurring Modigliani on the wing. But the organized Germans always seemed coiled to strike. In the 67th minute, when the ball broke to Lukas Podolski open on the left, you could count the goal even before he slid it across to Klose to deliver the killer blow.

The Argentines were humbled. The only surprise was perhaps that they managed to end the game with 11 men. As German goal followed goal, Mick Jagger tried to quietly dispose of his Argentine scarf, and Angela Merkel wriggled in ecstasy.

Maradona departs and the World Cup loses one of its most flamboyant storylines. Perhaps his greatest achievement was that despite being oh-so-very bonkers -- after being briefly institutionalized he emerged to tell the Guardian, "There were people in there because they thought they were Robinson Crusoe and they didn't believe me when I told them I'm Maradona" -- he managed to create a stable team. But the pure passion he relied upon could only get Argentina so far. As the Germans clinically picked his midfield apart, he had no answer. I have grown so fond of El Diego and it will be interesting to see what he does now. The way his head bobbed manically to the Argentine national anthem made me wonder if he is still tested for drugs.

What has happened to the South American World Cup? Paraguay will grapple with Spain this afternoon. As my Paraguayan friend Rosanna says, "To dream is for free." The German youth revolution marches on. A lesson to those responsible for grassroots development in the United States. England fans exalt: Your team's performance was apparently not so dire after all.

What odds now on Jogi Lw rocking a mock-turtle neck in the semifinal?