Germany found itself on the other foot on Wednesday when Argentina which, despite its World Cup ambitions dying in a four-goal thumping two years ago, turned the tables to win a friendly international 3 – 1 in Frankfurt.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella had promised to tease the best out of star man Lionel Messi by “talking to him as little as possible” – and both he and his teammates let their football do the talking against hosts who played an hour with ten men.
“One action changed the match,” noted Sabella afterwards in referring to Germany losing inexperienced goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler after he upended the onrushing Jose Sosa on the half hour.
“At that moment the Germans were getting the upper hand and that turned things around. But they never gave up hope of getting back into it,” noted an admiring Sabella.
Germany counterpart Joachim Löw insisted: “I was satisfied with our opening 20, 25 minutes, and we could have led.
“After the red card and an own goal it’s not easy to have a go at the players,” added Löw, referring to a curious opening goal which saw Sami Khedira knock the ball over his own line in first half injury time following Real Madrid teammate Angel Di Maria’s corner.
It was the last thing Khedira needed as he had felt moved Monday to answer critics from the political Right as to why players of non-German origin often do not sing the national anthem.
The 25-year-old former Stuttgart man has a Tunisian father.
Before Khedira’s unfortunate contribution, Zieler’s foul had forced the team to take off midfielder Thomas Müller and also send on 20-year-old rookie Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Ter Stegen took his place between the sticks – then promptly saved a poor Messi penalty.
First choice Manuel Neuer was unavailable after bruising his pelvis in Bayern Munich’s weekend German Super Cup win over Dortmund at the weekend.
Messi – who shattered Europe’s goalscoring records last season with 73 goals in total for Barcelona in 60 games to beat German Gerd Mueller’s mark of 67 set 1972-73 – would not be denied, however, and was at the heart of a fine win with the second goal in 52 minutes.
Another Real Madrid man, Higuain, was in the thick of the action as, having dusted himself down from his collision with Hummels, he set up Messi’s goal with a fine run and pullback from the byline, leaving the Barca wizard with a finish from 15 yards.
Di Maria set the seal on the victory when he rifled home a left-footer from 30 yards with 11 minutes remaining.
A late Benedict Höwedes header restored a smidgen of German pride.
Sabella, who replaced sacked Sergio Batista a year ago following an uninspiring Copa America campaign on home soil, had promised to offer attacking football an kept to his word, producing an entertaining evening at the Commerzbank Arena.
While Argentina celebrated a morale-boosting win, to add to their success in June in a friendly over Brazil, the Germans – despite the influx of new, young names such as Marco Reus – are still looking fully to get over their Euro 2012 semi-final loss to Italy.