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Germany peaking at right time in World Cup

Germany's striker Miroslav Klose, right, shakes hands with

Germany's striker Miroslav Klose, right, shakes hands with Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero after his team won the 2010 World Cup quarter-final football match against Argentina, Saturday. (July 3, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Germany is the team to beat as the World Cup comes down to four contenders, with Spain, the Netherlands and Uruguay looking for a way to beat a German team that has peaked at just the right time.

With 13 goals in five games, Germany has sent home Argentina and England with ease, scoring four goals each time. The three other semifinalists have been less impressive.

At the end of the first round, South American teams were set to dominate the competition. Only Uruguay remains, with favorite Brazil falling to the well-organized Dutch.

Uruguay meets the Netherlands Tuesday and European champion Spain faces three-time World Cup winner Germany on Wednesday for places in the final.

The Europeans and South Americans stand at 9-9 after 18 World Cups, so one of them is guaranteed to edge ahead in the July 11 final at Soccer City. No European team has won a World Cup staged outside the continent.

On current form, that final looks like a Netherlands-Germany matchup, a meeting of two neighbors who also played in the 1974 title game when the Germans won on home soil.

Germany beat Argentina, 4-0, in Cape Town on Saturday with Miroslav Klose scoring twice to extend his total in three World Cups to 14 goals. He has two more games to beat the career record of 15 by Brazil's Ronaldo.

The Germans, who have not won the title since 1990, also got four goals against Australia and England. They are looking ominously good.

"What the team showed, it was not only international level, but the level of champions," coach Joachim Loew said after Germany knocked out one of the tournament favorites. "It was absolute class."

Supremely organized and devastating on the counterattack, Germany has blended experience and youth. While 20-year-old Thomas Mueller has added three goals to 32-year-old Klose's four, 21-year-old Mesut Oezil supports neatly in midfield with the experienced yet young Bastian Schweinsteiger. The whole team has a consistent, solid look.

Spain, by contrast, has stumbled on its way to the final four, edging Paraguay, 1-0, in the quarterfinals Saturday after both teams missed penalty kicks.

"A rival like Germany works better for us than one like we had in Paraguay," said David Villa, who is one shy of matching Raul Gonzalez's national record of 44 international goals. "Germany's a great team with an incredible run of results, always a tough opponent and probably the team in best form at this World Cup."

Uruguay - a 100-1 shot when the tournament began - is left to take the title back to South America, a tough task indeed.


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