MUNICH, March 2 Germany captain Michael Ballack has stoked up the rivalry with Wednesday's opponents Argentina by saying the South Americans are experts in the art of gamesmanship.
"They know all the tricks and secrets," he told reporters on Tuesday. "Together with their quality, it's the way they understand football. They have the full repertoire.
"In character, we're very different from the South Americans and that's no secret. Perhaps it's something they learn from their childhood, it's part of the game and you have to take it into account when you play them.
"It makes them very difficult opponents, but also a very interesting team when they stay within the boundaries."
Germany knocked Argentina out of the last World Cup in the quarter-finals, winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but the match ended with an ugly brawl between the two teams.
Torsten Frings, a key player, was suspended from the semi-final against Italy as a result and the Germans lost 2-0 in extra-time.
Ballack praised Argentina coach Diego Maradona, saying that he and his team mates were in awe of a player who is considered among the finest to have graced the game.
"He holds an incredible aura for all of us, what he has done for the football world is incredible," said Ballack. "It's fantastic to play against this type of personality."
Germany coach Joachim Loew agreed with Ballack but did not want to comment on the coaching abilities of Maradona, the subject of huge debate in Argentina.
Loew saw a positive side to the fact that Maradona had called up more than 100 players in 18 months.
"People may find it incredible that he has picked over 100 players and, I believe, eight goalkeepers, but I think it just shows that he's spoilt for choice.
"I think when it boils down to it, he has a nucleus of around 30."
(Editing by John Mehaffey; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)
Our top photos from the past week.