CAPE TOWN – Had a crestfallen Diego Maradona taken a quick peek across the Green Point Stadium pitch after the final whistle Saturday, he would have eyeballed the euphoric celebrations of the two Germans who had just humiliated him in front of millions of television viewers.
Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose.
Done in by The Ball Boy and The Bum.
Four months ago, being annihilated by a 4-0 margin to this German squad like his team was Saturday at Green Point, would have seemed impossible to the Argentine manager.
Heck, he wasn’t even sure who the German players WERE at the time.
Back in March, during a 1-0 Argentine victory over Germany in a friendly held in Munich, a young German midfielder, Thomas Mueller, joined the Argentina coach on the podium for a post-game press conference.
Upon seeing the 20-year-old kid, Maradona got up and walked away, joking that he would not return until the “ball boy” got off the stage.
Introducing Thomas Mueller – The Ball Boy.
Of course, back then Mueller was not the hot topic in the German media.
A veteran of two previous World Cup tournaments, Klose was being shredded in the press. Reporters wondered why he was on the national team.
After all, he had just three goals for his club team, Bayern Munich. He wasn’t even starting for them. It was a waste of time and a roster spot to have him representing Germany, the critics insisted.
Introducing Miroslav Klose – The Bum.
Now, here they were, just 15 weeks later, The Ball Boy and The Bum, dismantling one of the world’s soccer powers with lethal precision on a beautiful Cape Town afternoon.
Who would have predicted this?
Probably not Mick Jagger and Leonardo Dicaprio, who sat together in a VIP box. South African beauty Charlize Theron, also on hand, likely would not have seen this coming either. German chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in the house, was likely just glad the score ended up as it did.
Perhaps the only man who knew what The Ball Boy and the Bum were capable of during the World Cup was Joachim Loew, the German manager who has shown incredible confidence in both even when no one else seemed to.
Intent to rebuild with kids after Germany’s loss to Spain in Euro 2008, Loew brought to South Africa the youngest German team since 1934. That includes Mueller, who entered the quarterfinal against mighty Argentina with three goals in the first four World Cup games, including two in a 4-1 thumping of England in the round of 16.
It didn’t take him long to make it four in five.
Mueller set the tone for the game when he headed in Bastien Schweinsteiger’s free kick just three minutes into the game, providing the Germans with an early 1-0 lead and some much-needed momentum.
Then, with the Argentines pressing early in the second half, Mueller, lying on the turf, made a brilliant scoop pass to Lukas Podolski, who fed Klose for a tap-in goal to up the lead to 2-0.
A play started by The Ball Boy, then finished off seconds later by The Bum.
What in the name of Diego Maradona was going on?
After defender Arne Friedrich upped the advantage to 3-0 with a rare goal, Klose finished off the game with his second, guaranteeing the Germans a berth in the semis for the third consecutive World Cup.
“To beat a world-class team like Argentina by a 4-0 score is unbelievable,” Loew said. “I just told our guys: ‘We are younger, stronger, faster. Let the pace come to you and the game will come our way."
“I can’t say enough about our young guys. They are fearless.”
Young guys like Mueller, whose four goals leave him tied with Klose for the team lead.
“Germany’s rocking right now, and rightly so,” he said. “This is madness, what’s happened here today.
“If you come here and beat Argentina 4-0 it’s hard to find the words.”
Unfortunately, Mueller will miss the semifinal because he has accrued to many yellow cards.
“If I want to (become the tournament’s top scorer) I need to hope that my colleagues do everything right in the semis,” he said. “Then maybe I can hit another in the final.”
Having more than paid back Loew for believing in him when no one else did, Klose, 32 and some 12 years Mueller’s elder, was much more subdued. He needs just one more goal to tie Brazil’s Ronaldo for the all-time tournament scoring lead with 15.
“If it was up to me I would prefer to win the World Cup than top the World Cup scorers’ list,” Klose said.
Two more victories, and The Ball Boy and The Bum will have accomplished exactly that.