Germany runs by Argentina, Spain in semis

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Germany runs by Argentina, Spain in semis

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi hangs his head during the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal match against Germany at Green Point stadium in Cape Town on July 3. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

JOHANNESBURG - Germany demolished Argentina and Spain squeaked by Paraguay in a quarterfinal of extraordinary drama on Saturday, as Europe reclaimed its dominance over Latin America at the World Cup.

The results mean three European sides and Uruguay will compete in next week’s semifinals. South American teams had dominated the early stages of the World Cup, while football powerhouses England, Italy and France were all humbled.

Germany’s 4-0 rout of Diego Maradona’s side though was the second time in two days that a European power had sent home one of the two Latin American favorites, following the Netherlands’ shocking defeat of Brazil on Friday.

Spain meanwhile had to fight long and hard against a tough Paraguayan team before Spanish striker David Villa, the tournament’s top scorer, took the only goal - his fifth of the tournament - in the 83rd minute after substitute Pedro’s effort bounced off an upright.

Both sides missed penalties in a frantic spell in the second half. Spanish keeper Iker Casillas saved Oscar Cardozo’s penalty, and three minutes later Xabi Alonso’s first try for Spain was disallowed for encroachment. Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar saved the second.

In the semifinals, Spain will face Germany, which handed Argentina its worst World Cup defeat in 52 years, outplaying the South American side all over the pitch despite the presence of World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who was mostly stifled by German defenders.

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David Villa of Spain, left, celebrates his goal during the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal match against Paraguay at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 3. Spain won 1-0. [XINHUA/YONHAP]

Germany and Spain will play in Durban on Wednesday while Uruguay will face the Netherlands on Tuesday in Cape Town. The extraordinary World Cup shake-up came as millions of Africans continued to mourn the controversial elimination of their last hope, Ghana, by Uruguay on Friday.

The Ghanaians were robbed by a cruel - and some said unfair - turn of fate from becoming the first continental nation to reach the semi-finals after losing on penalties.

A Luis Suarez handball on the goal line in the dying seconds of extra-time was all that stood between Ghana and a place in the final four after they failed to convert the resulting spot-kick and then lost the penalty shootout.

Africans called radio phone-in shows to say Suarez had cheated, echoing the tearful comment by defender John Pantsil after the game: “It was not a penalty, it was a goal, because he [Suarez] was the last man on the goal line and he saved the ball with the hands.”

Emotions were naturally running high across the Atlantic where Uruguayan media celebrated “the hands of Luis Suarez.” Tens of thousands took to the streets of Montevideo to cheer their best World Cup run in 40 years, although Suarez will miss the semifinal after being given a red card for the handball. The outcome sparked a new debate about whether FIFA should change its rules and introduce a system similar to rugby, where referees can award a penalty try.

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A heartbroken Maradona said Argentina’s thrashing was the hardest day of his life.

“Today, close to the 50 years I will be on October 30, this is the hardest thing I’ve experienced. ... I have no strength for anything.”

Germany shocked the Argentines with a third minute goal from Thomas Mueller and scored three times in the second half - twice by Miroslav Klose and once from Arne Friedrich. German coach Joachim Loew said he believed his young team could win the trophy for the first time in 20 years. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who enthusiastically cheered from the stands during the match, said: “It’s overwhelming, it’s a dream.”

Celebrations erupted throughout Germany and more than 350,000 fans watched at a fan park in Berlin. Even the German players seemed stunned by the extent of their victory. “It’s insane to beat Argentina 4-0,” said Mueller, whose yellow card may mean he misses the semi.


Reuters

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