Cape Town: Germany and Argentina have turned up the heat ahead of their eagerly-anticipated World Cup quarter-final on Saturday, with sparks flying as both sides trade barbs.
The two teams have an intense and long rivalry, with the Argentines beating Germany in the 1986 final before losing to them in the 1990 decider.
More recently, they met at the same stage in 2006 with Juergen Klinsmann’s side going through 4-2 on penalties after over-cautious counterpart Jose Pekerman left Lionel Messi on the bench.
That shootout ended in a brawl when the South Americans reacted angrily after Germany’s Jens Lehmann saved Esteban Cambiasso’s spot-kick to confirm victory.
The coaches are different now but the desire of both teams to get their hands on the World Cup again hasn’t changed.
Argentina lifted the trophy in 1978 and 1986 while the Germans have won three times, in 1954, 1974, and 1990.
Diego Maradona, who played in the 1986 and 1990 finals, is now coach and made clear revenge is on his mind for the 2006 defeat.
“The players are thinking about going onto the pitch, in getting their revenge,” the former midfield maestro told Fox Sports Argentina.
He added that they were confident of countering the current German threat, despite them being high on confidence after crushing old enemy England 4-1 in the round of 16.
“They are stronger (than round of 16 opponent Mexico), but we will field the right players to beat them,” said Maradona, who is seeking to join Franz Beckenbauer as the only man to have skippered and coached a country to World Cup glory.
Argentina though have been hit by concern over the fitness of Messi, who did not train on Thursday. The team insisted he only had a cold and would be fine.
Argentina, along with the Netherlands, are the only countries left with a 100 percent record and Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez said they do not fear Germany, who have not failed to reach the last eight since 1938.
“(Germany) won their game and so reached the quarters, but they are not better than Argentina,” he said.
The Germans will have Chancellor Angela Merkel in Green Point Stadium watching and coach Joachim Loew is hoping his young team can impress her by riding the wave of beating England.
“There is a very positive feeling in the team. We have gained a lot of confidence from taking a victory against England,” said Loew.
While Argentina have been unbeatable in South Africa, Loew said he had identified weaknesses, without revealing what they were.
“We have found weaknesses in their side, but I will keep that information for my players.”
Several current players were in the side that beat Argentina in 2006, including midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who remembers it well.
“What I remember most is what happened after the game, this brawl which had been triggered by the Argentinians,” he said, then accused the current side of being “disrespectful”.
“I find that the behaviour of the Argentinians on the pitch, how they gesticulate and how they try to influence the referee, is disrespectful”, said Schweinsteiger, setting the tone for Saturday’s encounter.
Captain Philipp Lahm added fuel to the fire by saying Germany was looking forward to seeing how Argentina cope with losing again.
“We have to focus on the task at hand, we know the Argentinians will be a tough game, we need to be cool and it remains to be seen how the South Americans deal with another defeat on Saturday,” he said.
Key To Match
Taming Messi and Tevez
With Messi the fulcrum of an Argentine side that looks unbeatable for pure fire-power and Tevez a live wire capable of scoring from anywhere, Germany have their work cut out.
Versatile captain Philipp Lahm will need to be on top of his game, marshalling his defence to snuff out the threat.