Berlin, June 30: The party goes on, the champagne is still bubbling and flags fly on in defiance.
Germany is into the semi-finals of ďitsĒ World Cup after beating Argentina in the ultimate drama of a penalty shootout here in Berlinís historic Olympic Stadium. Itís a destiny beyond the wildest dreams of most of German fans a month ago.
Jens Lehmann was the climactic hero, saving penalties from Roberto Fabian Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso after a 1-1 draw which the Germans had rescued in typically never-say-die spirit.
A late equaliser from Miroslav Klose paved the way for a continuation of the nationís wave of excitement. All forgotten now is the controversy over trainer Juergen Klinsmannís Californian home and the pre-event pessimism of their own fans.
Germany had beaten Argentina in 1990, the last time it won the World Cup. To repeat the trick is a happy omen particularly since the South Americans had played the best football of these finals until now.
The opening exchanges were more machismo than manners. Over-eager snap-tackles of aggression prompted nervy gestures of agitation. This was not merely Germany against Argentina, this was Europe against South America, football cultures separated by an ocean even though all but three of the Argentine starters earned their living in Europe.
Argentina played it neat, quick and patient, relying on possession football to seek gaps of opportunity. None came.
Germany played it linear. Angled passes, sharp bursts, exploratory passes for Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and their midfielders to pursue.
Michael Ballack ghosted through once to head an inviting chip from Bernd Schneider wastefully wide. Per Mertesacker lofted high over the bar after Argentina struggled to clear a free kick.
The dry green of the Olympic Stadium became a tactical chessboard. Argentina pulled Maxi Rodriguez wide to block Philipp Lahmís raids up the German left; Germany set Torsten Frings to hustle and harass Juan Roman Riquelme, source of Argentinaís creativity; both pairs of central defenders denied their rival strikers even the merest glance at goal.
Until the 48th minute.
Then Riquelme curled a tantalising right-wing corner into the heart of the German penalty box and Ayala craned beyond Kloseís challenge to head home. First blood to Argentina.
Germany raised the tempo at the cost of tactical discipline. Klinsmann and assistant Jogi Low conferred out in their technical area: what do we change, whom should we change'
Suddenly, players came and went at bewildering speed as both teams threw their chess pieces out of the window. Passion took over from pattern as Germany laid siege to Francoís goal. Their reward was a headed equaliser from Klose on 79 minutes after Ballackís left-wing cross was headed on by Tim Borowski.
So to extra time and then to Lehmannís heroics ' justifying Klinsmannís decision to choose him ahead of Oliver Kahn, who had embraced the hero before the spot kicks.
Lehmann said later: ďWe had super shots (in the penalties). And itís just expected that a German goalkeeper makes the saves.Ē
BRAZIL VS FRANCE
Ronaldo (left), the ‘fat’ man who seems hungrier than ever, and Zidane (right), the ‘old’ master with seemingly no appetite for pension Ronaldinho, the ‘flick-flack’ magician who’s been saving all his tricks for the big moment, and Vieira, the hard man who’s suddenly discovered a penchant for scoring and creating
ENGLAND VS PORTUGAL
Rooney, the young talisman whom pressure can’t faze nor injury foil, and the wily Figo (below), eager for a last hurrah without ifs and, especially, butts Beckham (left), of the hairdo for the ladies and curling kick for queen, Victoria and country, and Maniche, the big man with a habit of scoring in big games