NPR logo Germany Perseveres, Ousts Argentina in Shootout

Germany Perseveres, Ousts Argentina in Shootout

BERLIN (AP) - There's no end to Germany's resourcefulness and tenacity at this World Cup.

The Germans relentlessly wore down Argentina, scored a tying goal in the 80th minute Friday, then won it 4-2 in a penalty-kick shootout as goalkeeper Jens Lehmann stopped two shots and the hosts made all four of theirs.

Rather than getting desperate when they fell behind for the first time in the tournament, the Germans pressed the attack and beat Argentina's backup goalkeeper Leonardo Franco - playing only his third game with Argentina and his first minutes of the World Cup - on Miroslav Klose's header to pull even 1-1.

After a scoreless extra time, Germany grabbed a spot in the semifinals opposite the Italy-Ukraine winner by dominating the shootout against the second-string keeper, who never came close on any of the shots.

So the party heads to Dortmund on Tuesday, as the hosts seek their fourth world title. Argentina heads home exhausted, despite controlling the ball for most of the game.

This was most anticipated match of the World Cup so far, pairing Germany's resurgent offense against the team that had scored two of the most spectacular goals of the tournament. But if this was the classic soccer so many hoped for, it was a major disappointment early on - even the 72,000 fans seemed let down, and the usual fervor was missing.

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That changed as the drama built, right into the shootout.

Oliver Neuville, Michael Ballack, Lukas Podolski and Tim Borowski had no trouble with Franco in the shootout. Roberto Ayala, who scored in the 49th minute, and Esteban Cambiasso were stopped by Lehmann, who guessed correctly on both shots he let through and nearly stopped those as well.

When Lehmann made the final save by diving to his right, the German players, who stood arm-in-arm on the field, sprinted to mob him. The crowd, which less than an hour before sensed an early end to the festivities with their team down 1-0, erupted with singing, flag-waving and chants for their heroes.

Several players twirled towels and their jerseys as they toured the Olympic Stadium pitch in exultation.

The Argentines trudged off with a painful defeat. The end was marred by pushing and shoving on the field, with several Argentine players surrounding the referee before order was restored.

By the end of extra time, the Argentines had slowed to a snail's pace, and the Germans - particularly limping captain Ballack - didn't have much left. Several times, Ballack couldn't even chase loose balls.

Yet they found the strength to make their penalty kicks.

Argentina put Germany behind for the first time in the tournament on Ayala's header in the 49th minute. But Germany relentlessly pressed, wearing down Argentina's defense and finally taking advantage of Franco with a header of their own.

In the 80th minute, Ballack lofted a pass into the penalty area that substitute Borowski blindly headed across the goalmouth for Klose, who ducked inside a defender, dived toward the net and headed it past Franco into the far corner of the goal.

The inexperienced Franco had replaced Roberto Abbondanzieri, who came out in the 71st, about five minutes after a collision with Klose following a free kick.

The visitors controlled the ball for two-thirds of the first half, dictating a slower pace that frustrated the Germans. But the hosts created the only true scoring chance in the half, with captain Ballack putting a header wide and high in the 16th minute off a brilliant lob by Bernd Schneider.

Ballack began limping midway through the period, but at least he was noticeable. Klose, the leading scorer in the tournament, touched the ball just a couple of times, while Argentina's dangerous Hernan Crespo was invisible.

Klose was heavily involved in Argentina's first goal, though. Riquelme, who orchestrates the methodic Argentine attack, sent his corner kick into the middle of the Germany box, and Ayala soared over Klose to head it home.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)