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Maradona's Prayers Demolished by German Players

Argentina head coach Diego Maradona reacts during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match against Germany at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, July 3, 2010. AP Photo/Martin Meissner

When it comes to winning the World Cup, are rosary beads enough? Is there a certain number of Hail Marys and Our Fathers that a coach must say in order to elicit divine intervention?

Perhaps not enough to bring Argentina coach Diego Maradona the sporting redemption he craved.

He paced around the coach's area, his rosary beads wrapped around his left fist, pleading with his Maker and bleeding with his players.

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Yet Germany's majestic, controlled and joyously positive 4-0 demolition of Argentina consisted of earthly talents maturing before the eyes of the whole world. (Yes, before everyone from Charlize Theron and Chancellor Merkel to Leo DiCaprio and Mick Jagger.)

It took just three minutes for Argentina to need a celestial stroke or two. Otamendi's crude foul on Podolski, not merely a late lunge with his leg, but also a forearm to the ribs, was rewarded with a free kick.

Schweinsteiger's meticulous cross curved invitingly in from the left. Muller drifted onto it, accompanied by nothing more than air.

Romero in the Argentina goal seemed held back by his considerable ponytail, and stayed rooted to his misjudged position as Muller's header bounced off his leg and into the goal.

Muller is the young German with whom Argentina coach Diego Maradona refused to share a press conference podium, referring to him as "the ball boy."

In this game he proved to be a wing with a powerful prayer of his own, as he was a constant threat to Argentina's destiny.

After the goal, if Germany played the Italian way, it would have sat back and defended. It would have counted its blessings.

However, this German team came here to play football, and play football it would.

For better or for worse.

Maradona (dressed, as usual, in the gray suit that made him look like a groom at a shotgun wedding) tried to maintain some semblance of self-control.

He was little more successful than his captain, Javier Mascherano, who was very lucky not to be yellow-carded for an assassin's lunge on Schweinsteiger.

Muller's driving run after 23 minutes should have led to a second German goal. He squared the ball perfectly to Klose, whose skied shot, more off the ankle than the instep, was an extraordinarily charitable contribution.

Still, where Germany looked crisp and alert, Argentina was skittish. Where Germany looked purposeful, Argentina looked desperate. Desperately slow, too.

Tevez and Messi, Argentina's jewels, tried to offer some sparkle of promise, but all too often they found cul-de-sacs rather than tour-de-forces.

Then, as the rosary beads turned, the gears slowly clunked into life.

Tevez managed to slide the ball into the net, but there were four Argentinians standing in an offside position.

Somehow, Maradona's men managed to rail at the assistant referee, as if he shouldn't dare add to their frustrations. Didn't they know their connections to the Man Upstairs? Didn't he realize they were ordained to rehabilitate Maradona's reputation, so that he could fulfill his promise of running naked through the streets of Buenos Aires if Argentina won the World Cup?

Didn't they realize this was the man who played with the Hand of God?

As Messi fired several shots far over the bar, Maradona paced around the coach's area as if he was a TV preacher who had suddenly lost his hotline to Heaven.

He squeezed his rosary beads harder. One feared for their integrity.

They certainly conveyed some blessings on Ozamendi, who committed at least three, if not four yellow cards' worth of offenses.

They must surely have suffered gravely after 68 minutes when Podolski was set free on the left, crossed perfectly for Klose to slide to ball in a net that had been vacated by an onrushing Romero.

Soon it was three. Schweinsteiger, who dominated this game with both assurance and skill, drove through the right side of Argentina's defense (which stood like so many distraught wives of Lot) and crossed for, of all people, the defender Friedrich to stumble the ball home.

Klose had time to add a fourth with a couple of minutes left, a fourth that was again a triumph of the virtuosity of teamwork.

When the destruction was complete, Maradona reacted with grace. He hugged his players. He offered the solemn expression of a man who has been found thoroughly guilty of being second best.

Like Brazil, Argentina had committed the sin of trusting in midfield negativity. While Messi and Tevez are wonderful players, they need people around them who can suck in defenders and create chances.

Unfortunately, Argentina fielded a string of workers, none of whom could offer sparks of otherworldly brilliance.

Instead, Germany played with a speed of both body and thought that, to this Argentina, was a divine mystery.

Germany must be divinely favored now.


Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing, and an avid sports fan. He is also the author of the popular CNET blog Technically Incorrect.

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