During an enjoyably acrimonious build-up to the Cape Town quarterfinal Diego Maradona asked, in a mock German accent: “What's the matter, Schweinsteiger? Are you nervoushh?" The new Michael Ballack fired off his answer with the most commanding midfield performance of this World Cup.
Ballack, the leader of the German pack since 2002, must have felt his own value plunge at the Green Point Stadium as Bastian Schweinsteiger combined the roles of deep midfield destroyer, smooth passer and jinking winger: the post he filled for the Nationalmannschaft and Bayern Munich before his club called him in from the flank last season to assume more central duties.
With Javier Mascherano overrun in the screening role, Schweinsteiger sensed his opportunity to punish El Diego for his pre-match provocation, which Saturday's outstanding player had invited with a succession of swipes at Argentinian culture.
Along with the thrust and tenacity of Schweinsteiger's play we witnessed a cameo from the old days when he swerved round the entire right side of Argentina's defence to deliver a pass for Arne Friedrich to score his first international goal. This flourish showed him to be capable of impersonating Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane in a single game.
“He was fabulous, I have to say. An extremely hard worker. He ran long distances, was a leader, the head of the whole set-up,” said Loew, Germany's coach.
“He was the linchpin in every attack we had. The way he set up Friedrich was second to none. You couldn't do that better, going through three or four players then feigning a pass and cutting out their defenders — a magnificent performance.” — ©Guardian News and Media 2010
Keywords: 2010 World Cup