England made it easy for Germany, says Maradona

Argentina v Germany, 3.00pm, Cape Town, BBC1

Argentina were preparing to make their first World Cup semi-final appearance in 20 years but for the throng gathered inside Green Point Stadium for the latest audience with Diego Maradona, there was only one topic of conversation, the humiliation being felt by their old enemy, Brazil.

"Even the photographers are dressed like Dutchmen," the Argentina manager quipped when seeing them wearing their orange tabards. "But, really, I don't want to talk about Brazil. Their defeat is their problem. I have other business. Just because they are eliminated it doesn't make Argentina favourites. But if anyone is going to beat us, they are going to have leave their skin on the pitch."

Nobody really believed that Maradona did not want to talk about Brazil because he was quite prepared to discuss anything else before a fixture that has defined his career. In 1986, in what could probably be counted the last great World Cup final, he caressed the trophy he had done so much to win in the Azteca Stadium.

Following a 3-2 victory over West Germany, his horizons appeared limitless; four years later, in the aftermath of another more brutal final, he was in tears, rounding on his team-mates for consoling themselves with the thought that they had at least reached a World Cup final with the words: "You don't celebrate second place, tiger." His international career had another four years to run before it ended in a failed drugs test.

At the start of the tournament, Maradona gave his side six-and-a-half out of 10 for their performances. Now he rates them as an eight, adding that it was difficult to assess Germany because England had "made it so very easy for them" in Bloemfontein.

Germany have been talking rather more about Argentina. Bastian Schweinsteiger recalled the violence that flared between the two sides in Berlin four years ago, after Argentina lost the quarter-final on a penalty shoot-out. Jens Lehmann had a list of where the Argentinian penalty-takers would put the ball stuffed down one of his socks. The Germany manager, Joachim Löw, replied that with Lionel Messi, who did not train because of a cold, and the rest of Maradona's formidable arsenal of attacking talent, Lehmann's successor, Manuel Neuer, would need a brochure not a list.

Franz Beckenbauer, still the spiritual overlord of German football, noted that Schweinsteiger's comments "were not the wisest thing he had ever said." He added: "I don't understand all these doubts that surround Maradona as a manager. An exceptional former player does not need to be taught about football. Argentinian players would go through fire for Diego. I know from my time at Bayern Munich with Martin Demichelis [the Argentinian centre-half] that the worst thing in their eyes is to let Diego down."

And yet, Maradona's defence is vulnerable to a German side that was tactically very adept against England. If Mesut Ozil can drag Walter Samuel and Javier Mascherano out of position as he did with John Terry and Gareth Barry in Bloemfontein, then the space Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski require would open up.

Beckenbauer urged Klose to attack the Argentinian back four early. While Lothar Matthaus, another veteran of both the 1986 and the 1990 finals, argued that the absence of Michael Ballack had allowed a young side to blossom. Curiously, Ballack is due in Cape Town to support the side he once captained, along with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Löw appeared supremely relaxed, arguing that Schweinsteiger was perfectly entitled to express his opinion and that the quarter-final would be "a cut-throat encounter in which we will have to fight for every centimetre."

He would still continue to play his team the motivational videos just before kick-off, including shots of fans in Germany celebrating their goals. "They will be ready when they get on that pitch," he said. "We are not going to sit shivering nervously in the dressing room, hoping the referee will postpone the match. We are fully ready for this." When it was pointed out to Löw that Mick Jagger was now backing Germany for the World Cup he winced. "You can't bet on Mick Jagger's predictions because by backing England at the start he has been wrong about football before."

Germany v Argentina: Three Key confrontations

Jerome Boateng v Lionel Messi

A goalless Messi has not been at his best in the finals but his waspish running will concern Germany's defence. Their lack of a natural left-back – neither Holger Badstuber nor Jerome Boateng have convinced – is something of which the mercurial Messi will seek to take advantage.

Miroslav Klose v Martin Demichelis

The 32-year-old Klose habitually comes alive at World Cups. His opener against England last weekend was his 12th in finals history, making him the fourth highest World Cup scorer. Demichelis has struggled for form and will have a severe examination up against Klose.

Per Mertesacker v Gonzalo Higuain

Part of England's ill-fated game-plan last weekend was to target the perceived weakness of Mertesacker, and, while Fabio Capello's side failed dismally, Higuain could have more success this afternoon as he looks to further his claim for the Golden Boot.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone