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Sports

Ghosts of 2006 make for bad blood ahead of Germany-Argentina match

‏Before getting down to business on Saturday afternoon, the Germany and Argentina camps have had plenty to say about each other - not all of it nice.

Diego Maradona and Joachim Loew

Maradona and Loew's teams don't seem to like each other

"Even before the game, they're at it. The way they gesture, their attempts to influence the referee. It shows a lack of respect, but that's just the way the Argentines are."

Bastian Schweinsteiger, making clear what he thinks of Argentina this week.

He also shared his most vivid memory of the game between the two sides at the same quarterfinal stage of the 2006 tournament.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Schweinsteiger didn't mince words about Argentina

"What I remember most is what happened after the game, the brawl which was triggered by the Argentinians," said the Germany midfielder.

Referring to that fight, captain Philipp Lahm said he thought its genesis was simple: the Argentines "don't know how to lose."

The post-match melee meant a suspension for Schweinsteiger's predecessor in Germany's holding midfield role, Torsten Frings. The German team went on to lose their next match to Italy, and many in Germany still feel Frings' absence was decisive in the semi-final defeat.

Schweinsteiger said nothing of the kind would happen this time.

"We will not be intimidated or respond to their provocations. I hope the referee will be watching the game closely," he said.

Returning fire…or holding it?

Having been provoked, the Argentina camp wasted little time in firing back - through the ever-passionate Carlos Tevez.

"I was more afraid of Mexico than Germany," Tevez told the Argentine newspaper Clarin. "The Mexicans play better football."

Ouch.

Arne Friedrich and Carlos Tevez

Just as he was in 2006, Tevez will be a handful for German defenders like Arne Friedrich

Other than Tevez's snap, however, the South Americans tried to stay low-key. Martin DeMichelis, who plays in Germany for Bayern Munich, said their recent record against Germany does all the talking.

"All the criticisms they make are a sign of respect and nerves. Since we beat them in March, they respect us," he said.

Argentina defeated Germany in that recent friendly in Munich 1-0 - a score line that flattered the comprehensively beaten hosts.

Upon hearing Schweinsteiger's comments, Coach Diego Maradona was even more dismissive. He said his team "didn't have time to think about Schweinsteiger" and ended a television interview by teasing the player.

"What's the matter with you, Schweinsteiger? Are you getting nervous?" said the football legend, in a mock-German accent.

Switching focus

Just over 24 hours before the match, however, Germany coach Joachim Loew tried to change the tone of the conversation. Firstly with kindness, as he spoke of his memories of Maradona the player

He galvanized the whole football world with the way he played. He was simply magic," said Loew, who never played a starring role on the pitch himself.

Joachim Loew

Maradona-fan Loew is known for his nose for good football

"1986 and 1990 were the culmination of Maradona's career and he left a mark on football like no other player has ever done before or since."

He then shared his own thoughts on the post-match fight in 2006 - which he had witnessed as an assistant coach.

"If you ask me, I think that game was at no time brutal or unfair until after the penalties. It was tightly contested but not marred by unfairness. The problem in 2006 started after the game had been decided," said Loew.

Still, Loew said his team would not come out feeling overburdened by the history between the two teams, which includes not just the 2006 brawl but two consecutive World Cup finals in 1986 and 1990, with each side getting the better of the other once.

"We will not be shivering in the changing rooms, hoping the referee won't start the game," said Loew.

"In matches like these," he added, "I don't really have to help the players with any motivational tricks."

Author: Matt Hermann (dpa/AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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