One of the worst sins you can commit in a big game is to give up an early goal on a free kick. Coaches warn their teams about it all the time. Concentrate. Stick to the player you are marking. No free headers. Yet Thomas Müller left his marker for dead in the third minute of the game to get a head to Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free kick to give Germany a 1-0 lead.
It was the beginning of a long afternoon for Argentina defender Nicolás Otamendi and the right side of Argentina’s defense.
Germany would score three goals counterattacking that Argentina flank on the way to thrashing Argentina 4-0. The second would come in the 68th minute with a beautiful reverse ball from Müller, executed while he was on the ground, that allowed Lucas Podolski to walk in on Argentine keeper Sergio Romaro and slip a pass to Miro Klose for a tap-in. Center back Arne Friedrich, of all people, got the third after a beautiful run by Schweinsteiger past three Argentine players, a run that Argentine star Lionel Messi would have been happy to claim as his own. Klose put the fourth away with professional ease, in the 89th minute, from a pass from Mesut Özil.
Argentina was beaten on offense, brutalized on defense, and ultimately destroyed by the same German side that dismissed England, only this time without any controversy over mistakes by the ref. This is a German team that is an entire class better than the one that did so well on home turf in 2006. Argentina was left walking around the field, wondering what happened to their vaunted attack. Messi, said to be suffering from a cold, looked slow. This was not the guy who had been driving defenders nuts throughout the tournament. Carlos Tevez kept trying to bull his way through, but the German defense, not the fastest in the world, was certainly strong enough to hold him off. Gonzalo Higuain never seemed dangerous. With two defenders assigned to Argentine attackers at any one time, it seemed clear that Germany was going to force lesser lights such as Ángel Di María to beat them. Di María had as many shots on goal—two—as did Messi, which should tell you something.
There would be no fights after this game, as had happened four years ago in Germany when the Germans prevailed on penalty kicks. Certainly, given the pregame trash talk, you might have expected something nasty to break out. But by the time this contest ended, all the fight had been taken out of Argentina.