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Germany oust Argentina as Africa mourns
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Germany demolished Diego Maradona's Argentina 4-0 on Saturday as a European power sent home a Latin American World Cup favourite for the second time in two days.
The Argentines had become a hot tip to win the tournament after five-times champions Brazil were ousted by the Netherlands on Friday.
But they were outplayed all over the pitch by a young German side despite the presence of World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who was mostly stifled by three defenders.
Germany will play their semi-final in Durban on Wednesday against the winner of the last quarter-final match between Spain and Paraguay later on Saturday.
The World Cup shake-up after Latin American dominance showed up European failure in the early stages, 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, some said unfair, turn of fate from becoming the first continental nation to reach the semi-finals after being beaten by Uruguay on penalties.
A Luis Suarez handball on the goalline in the dying seconds of extra-time was all that denied Ghana a place in the last four after they failed to convert the resulting spot-kick and then lost the penalty shootout.
Radio phone-in programmes were full of Africans saying that Suarez had cheated on Friday and callers echoed 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 goalline and he saved the ball with the hands."
"Why, why?!" said 32-year-old Janet Akushieka in Accra after the match as she voiced the torment of a nation after the Soccer City drama. "It's so painful, so devastating."
Emotions were naturally the opposite across the Atlantic where Uruguayan media celebrated "the hands of Luis Suarez".
Tens of thousands of flag-waving people took to the streets of Montevideo after the victory which sealed the small nation's best World Cup run in 40 years, although Suarez is in line to miss the semi-final against the Netherlands next Tuesday, after being red carded for the handball.
The outcome sparked a new debate about whether FIFA should change the rules and introduce a system similar to rugby where referees can award a penalty try.
Germany, whose squad is the youngest in 76 years, were too fast for Argentina in attack and too solid in defence. They shocked the Argentines with a third minute goal from Thomas Mueller and scored three times in the second half -- twice through Miroslav Klose and once from Arne Friedrich.
MERKEL JOINS CELEBRATION
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who enthusiastically cheered from the stands during the match, visited the team in the changing room afterwards. "This was a dream," she said.
Klose, criticised as lacking strike power before the World Cup, was making his 100th appearance for Germany.
Even the German players seemed stunned by the extent of their victory. "It's insane to beat Argentina 4-0. It's hard to find the words for a result like that," said Thomas Mueller, whose yellow card in the match may mean he misses the semi.
Messi was one of the most eagerly awaited players in Africa's first World Cup but never scored during the tournament while his side, egged on by the frantic antics of Maradona on the sidelines, had looked the most exciting in the tournament.
Germany beat Argentina on penalties at the same stage of the tournament in 2006.
The successive defeats of Argentina and Brazil led British bookies to make Germany, Spain and Netherlands joint favourites to win the tournament.
(Writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne; Reporting by Reuters World Cup team; Editing by Ossian Shine)
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