CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Here's a dilemma. Which team does a self-respecting Englishman want to see knocked out of the World Cup first, Argentina or Germany?
On the one hand, if the Germans give the Argentines a hiding (much like they gave the English) and send them packing back to Buenos Aires on Saturday in the quarterfinals, we would be rid of Diego Armando Maradona, which is always a good thing.
On the other hand, it would also deprive the tournament of its most captivating player, Lionel Messi, and that's a bad thing. Also, a World Cup final between Argentina and Brazil at Soccer City on July 11 would be something to behold.
But if Argentina wins and Germany is ousted from the tournament, Europe's already slim contingent of three teams in the final eight could well be reduced to none in the final four.
Brazil is favored to defeat the Netherlands in Port Elizabeth on Friday, the Dutch having an unfortunate habit of falling apart at exactly the wrong time.
Meanwhile, Spain, another fragile collection of talent when it comes to performing on the global stage, could easily fall in the semifinals, although it is difficult to envision David Villa and company not dealing with overachieving Paraguay Saturday in Johannesburg.
Which leaves Uruguay and Ghana, who square off Friday in Johannesburg. The Ghanaians are flying the lone African flag left in the tournament, the African teams having performed miserably, on the whole, on their own continent.
But it is the Argentina-Germany match in Cape Town that has World Cup fans salivating.
The teams met in the 1986 final in Mexico City, where Maradona and his teammates prevailed. They met again in the 1990 final in Rome, where the Germans came out on top.
More intriguingly, the teams also played in Berlin in the 2006 quarterfinals. That's when Argentina's coach, Jose Pekerman, misguidedly left Messi on the bench and the Albiceleste were beaten on penalty kicks, extra time having failed to break the stalemate.
There were angry words and punches thrown, and the same could occur Saturday night.
The Germans have an irritating habit of trying to undermine opponents ahead of games. Mind games are part and parcel of their approach.
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, for instance, has talked about how the Argentines "gesticulate and try to influence the referee. That is not part of the game. That is a lack of respect. They are just like that. This behavior shows their character and mentality."
Defender Philipp Lahm has also chipped in.
"We know the South Americans are impulsive and temperamental and cannot" take losing, he said. "We will see on Saturday how they will lose and how they will behave after a defeat."
The good thing about Germany going out, if that happens, is that the team really has no true stars. But if Argentina with Messi, Spain with Villa, Brazil with Luis Fabiano (no, not Kaka) and Uruguay with Diego Forlan make it to the final four, it would give lie to the strange comment made Thursday by Portugal's Eusebio, the top goal scorer at the 1966 World Cup.
"You can count the good players on one hand," Eusebio said of South Africa 2010.
For once, the "Black Panther of Mozambique" has got it wrong.