Gonzalo Higuain netted the only goal in Argentina's 1-0 win in Munich.
Over the past few days, there had been many questions as to who would start in Joachim Loew's matchday squad, and where they would play. In the end, the Germany gaffer opted to use a 4-2-3-1 formation, with several changes to the side that last earned a 2-2 draw against the Ivory Coast.
Jerome Boateng retained his spot at right-back, Serdar Tasci filled in for Heiko Westermann in central defense, and Bastian Schweinsteiger lined up for the first time as Michael Ballack's partner in central midfield. On the flanks, Lukas Podolski started opposite Thomas Mueller, who earned his first ever cap today. In the center, Miroslav Klose was supported by Mesut Oezil.
For Argentina, there have long been questions as to who will ultimately feature in Diego Maradona's first-choice squad at the World Cup, but with just one friendly left after today, perhaps the World Cup winner has made his final adjustments. Maradona sent out his formation in a 4-4-2 formation, with Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano in central midfield and attacking duo Jonas Gutierrez and Angel di Maria on the flanks. Up front, Lionel Messi played just inside his usual right-sided berth, next to Gonzalo Higuain.
Thanks to Schweinsteiger's keen technical play in the center, the hosts enjoyed the majority of the ball early on, but due to repeated fouling from both sides, play was very choppy. With Messi often dropping back and the fullbacks all drifting forward, the midfield was veritably packed with players, and neither side was able to string together a characteristic slick passing sequence to create space.
After the opening ten minutes, Argentina's technical quality came to life. Messi popped up all over the midfield and attacking areas and, while the Germans were quick to recover defensively, their guests' pace was difficult to contain. Messi slipped a clever ball through to Di Maria, who should have buried his shot but missed wide of the right post. Either way, the goal would not have counted because the winger was called offside.
Two minutes later, Martin Demichelis' hard tackle inadvertently set up Higuain in a one-on-one with Per Mertesacker, but the German won the challenge.
The Germans had a few good passing sequences as well, but lacked quality of service and any sort of presence inside the penalty area. A typical passing sequence between Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Podolski was punctuated in the full-back sending his cross well over Klose's head.
Around the half hour mark, the game became a bit more dirty. After Schweinsteiger was carded for a professional foul on Messi, Demichelis had to make a similar challenge as Mesut Oezil skilfully turned the Bayern defender. Minutes later, Walter Samuel was also booked after hooking Klose from behind.
Late in the first half, the visitors finally created the game's first clear chance that didn't end in a foul. Veron played a through ball between three German defenders and the Benfica man juked right then left to free himself from Boateng. Di Maria then fired a fine effort that clanged off the crossbar and was cleared.
Having had a good sniff at goal a few minutes before, the visitors would not be denied an opener before the half-time whistle. After a German attack was halted, Di Maria played a through ball to Higuain, who exploded past a German offside trap that was parked on the halfway line. Rene Adler had no choice but to sprint off his line, but Higuain touched past the shot-stopper and tucked the ball into an open net from 30 yards.
At the half, Loew opted to bring on Mario Gomez in place of Klose. Towards the end of the first half, the World Cup finalist had favoured his ankle, and was unable to continue.
Maradona follow suit within three minutes, when Gabriel Heinze limped off and was replaced by Clemente Rodriguez.
Argentina's defensive fitness woes continued within ten minutes of the restart when Ballack went up for a header and caught Demichelis in the face with his knee. After on-field treatment, the Bayern defender was promptly replaced by Nicolas Burdisso.
Between medical breaks, there was a moment or two of free play, during which Adler had to come off his line to clear ahead of Higuain. The ball went to Veron, who tried to chip the German goalkeeper from distance, but missed well over the bar.
On the whole, the Germans looked better between midfield and attack, but continued to be foiled by a combination of good defending and fouling. When given the ball for set pieces, the hosts lacked any sort of accuracy, and goalkeeper Sergio Romero ultimately had very little to do other than claim the occasional cross.
Shortly after the hour mark, Maradona and Loew made tactical changes. For Argentina, workhorse Carlos Tevez replaced the impressive Higuain as the hosts looked to take a more industrious approach. Loew replaced the tiring Oezil with in-form striker Cacau, and brought in set piece specialist Toni Kroos to replace Mueller.
Their substitutions seemed to suit the Germans well initially, as a burst of pace came with fresh legs. However, the hosts' finishing remained less than clinical. Ballack was set up well on 73 minutes, but his header was well wide. Cacau did well to dribble towards the box three minutes later, but his shot from distance, though powerful, was easily parried by Romero.
The Brazilian-born striker was a spark-plug for Germany's attack, but proved to be an isolated force as the hosts continued to fail to string together an attacking sequence with the punctuation of a quality strike.
On the other end, Veron came close to doubling the visitors' lead as his free kick was only parried by Adler, who recovered to claim the loose ball.
Veron's chance would prove to be the last good effort before the final whistle, which came following a rather dull seven-minute stint. Neither team looked sharp, but the visitors were ultimately the deserved winners. For Germany, it's back to the drawing board as Loew scrambles to assemble his first-choice team ahead of the World Cup.
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