Cape Town: It is a quarterfinal with all the makings of a final. Capricious Diego Maradona`s Argentina and precocious Germany have already produced the beautiful game that any World Cup thrives on.
Yet memory shows tomorrow`s game also has all the trappings of an ugly clash.
And for an added twist, the world`s greatest player, Lionel Messi, was said to be suffering from a touch of a cold, less than 48 hours before kickoff.
The game however, already reached fever pitch without any potential illness.
For all the sweet moves of Messi and Germany`s Mesut Oezil, the wild push-kich-and-shove melee at the end of Germany`s penalty shootout quarterfinal victory over Argentina four years ago is still fresh in the mind. And plenty of mind games are being played, as if the clash of talent is not enough.
Surprisingly, Germany started off with mudslinging, and did so with their renowned thoroughness. "They are impulsive, temperamental and they don`t know how to lose," said captain Philipp Lahm of the Argentineans.
And midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said the Argentine players had not changed. "They have no respect. It`s their mentality and character and we`ll have to adjust."
Coach Maradona took much of it in jest. "What`s happening Schweinsteiger, are you nervous?" he said, laughing in interview with Fox Sports Argentina.
"The boys are thinking about getting out on the pitch and getting revenge for 2006," he said.
"I don`t worry about what he says about the penalties, about the kicking, that we don`t know how to lose. That doesn`t bother us," he said.
The point that could well bother them is that playmaker Oezil and strikers like Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose could put defenders like Martin Demichelis in trouble like they have never seen at this World Cup.
The Germans know Demichelis all too well since he is a linchpin in the defense of Bayern Munich which reached the Champions League final two months ago.
And Demichelis said he knows the Germans well enough to know it betrays nerves.
"Maybe because we beat them on March 3 they respect us a little more," Demichelis said, referring to a 1-0 win in a preparation game.
"The important thing is that we answer on the pitch. The best answer is during the game."
And Argentina hopes Messi will be there to lead them.
Team doctor Donato Villani said Messi was kept out of yesterday`s training because he "has cold-like symptoms, nothing serious." He would undergo thorough medical tests on the eve of the game to test his health.
Even if he has not scored yet himself, the Barcelona forward has been instrumental in running up Argentina`s 10-2 goal tally with probing runs and crisp passing.
On top of that, Argentina has in Real Madrid`s Gonzalo Higuain a striker on form who shares the lead in the scoring with four goals from the three matches he played. If he fails, Carlos Tevez proved with a double strike in the 3-1 second-round win over Mexico that he can also easily step in.
After running England ragged in a superb 4-1 victory of creativity and speed, Germany enters the game with some question marks.
Forward Lukas Podolski and Oezil missed Germany`s training session because of vague muscular problems and fatigue.
Striker Cacau also missed the session because of a right thigh injury and has not trained for the past two days. He is not likely to play against Argentina.
Especially Oezil has been sparkling at 21, showing skills that make him one of the best playmakers at the World Cup. With a slew of young players in their first World Cup, Germany has run up a 9-2 goal average.
Beyond the penalty shootout four years ago, both teams twice met in the World Cup final, with Maradona making the difference in a 3-2 win in 1986 and Germany winning with a late penalty in Rome four years later.
Maradona was a star in both finals, and now as coach, has been nothing less on the sidelines.
"Diego has gone through every experience possible in football and that helps us a lot. If you`ve got a doubt about something or a question, he knows what to say," midfielder Javier Pastore said.