Germany Ends Argentina's Bid for Third World Cup, Keeps Maradona Clothed

Argentina’s worst soccer World Cup loss in 36 years ended the country’s bid for a third title and spared the nation the sight of Diego Maradona running naked in the streets of Buenos Aires.

Maradona, 49, said in May he would streak if his team lifted the trophy in South Africa. He’ll instead return home feeling like he’s been “kicked in the face” after yesterday’s 4-0 quarterfinal defeat to Germany in Cape Town.

“This sadness is really strong,” Maradona told reporters. “It’s tough because we wished to go beyond today and be among the four best in the world by beating Germany. Instead the opposite happened.”

Maradona, who led Argentina to its last World Cup victory as a player in 1986, made ambiguous statements about his future following the loss.

“I haven’t thought about leaving,” Maradona said. “I have to check with my family, the players, there’s a number of things I have to consider.”

Germany, which eliminated Argentina in the quarterfinals for the second straight time, will now meet European champion Spain on July 7 in Durban.

Joachim Loew’s team matched Brazil’s 1970 record of scoring four times in three games at the same World Cup. The Germans beat England 4-1 last week and opened the tournament on June 13 with a 4-0 rout of Australia.

Germany took the lead in the third minute when midfielder Thomas Mueller headed Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free kick in off the shin of goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Uphill Fight

“You have to start fighting uphill with a goal against you,” Maradona said. “Every time they got the ball they had the possibility to score and we didn’t.”

Argentina had more possession, shots on target and corners during a game in which FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was surrounded by several German players whenever he got the ball. He failed to force goalkeeper Manuel Neuer into a save.

“We tried to keep him in control and neutralize him in a fair way by putting him under pressure,” Loew said.

Maradona said the Barcelona forward, who leaves the tournament without scoring a goal, was in tears in the locker room after the game.

“He played a great World Cup,” Maradona said. “Seeing Messi cry in the dressing room the way I did, anybody who would suggest that he didn’t honor the Argentina shirt would be a stupid person.”

Mueller, who has scored four goals in five matches in South Africa, will be suspended for the semifinal after collecting his second yellow card of the tournament during the first half.

Klose Double

Following Mueller’s opener, Germany got three breakaway goals with Miroslav Klose claiming two to put him one behind the record of 15 held by Brazil’s Ronaldo. Defender Arne Friedrich got his first goal for his country in his 77th appearance.

Each time Loew’s team scored, German Chancellor Angela Merkel leapt from her seat next to South African President Jacob Zuma. Merkel visited the players in the locker room after the game to congratulate them on the victory.

“She said she was shaking until we scored the third goal,” Mueller said. “Even when we were winning 2-0 she was a bit nervous. When we scored the third goal, she turned to Zuma and told him: ‘we are going to win.’”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tariq Panja in Cape Town at tpanja@bloomberg.net; Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

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