By Barry Moody
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Germany thrashed England and Argentina subdued a tough Mexico side on Sunday to storm into the World Cup quarter-finals in matches both marred by controversial refereeing decisions.
Germany, superior in speed, tactics and skill, tore apart pedestrian rivals England 4-1, while Argentina had to work harder to defeat Mexico 3-1.
The first refereeing blunder came in the opening match when Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda ruled out a Frank Lampard shot that had clearly crossed the goal line and would have put England level 2-2, before Germany took them apart in the second half.
In the Argentina v Mexico match, a first goal from Carlos Tevez looked clearly offside and sparked a brief clash between rival substitutes at half time which was quelled by officials including Argentina coach Diego Maradona.
Argentina made sure of the match when Gonzalo Higuain exploited a defensive error to neatly go round Mexican keeper Oscar Perez in the 33rd minute and Tevez scored his second with a 25-meter thunderbolt early in the second half.
Javier Hernandez pulled one back for Mexico on 71 minutes in a packed Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.
It was the second consecutive World Cup in which Argentina had put out Mexico at the same stage.
Argentina and Germany will now meet in the quarter-finals on Saturday in a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals, the first won by Maradona's team and the second by Germany.
OUT OF REACH
Thomas Mueller scored two to put the game out of reach of England in the second half, both the result of lightning counter-attacks as the Three Lions pressed to equalize.
German coach Joachim Loew revealed after the match that his young side had followed a strategy to exploit England's lack of pace, luring experienced central defender John Terry forward to handle Klose and creating wide spaces for Mueller and Podolski.
The victory brought jubilant German soccer fans onto the streets at home, honking car horns and letting off fireworks.
England's coach Fabio Capello was devastated but realistic.
"We made some mistakes and the referee made one big mistake," he told the BBC. He added at a news conference that he would seek reassurance from the Football Association that he would keep his job although he had no intention of resigning.
Germany reveled in victory. "We were on top of things from the start, we were totally into the match and we deserved to win," said Klose.
Maradona, whose brilliant playing career was tarnished by drug problems, is enjoying a personal renaissance as coach and has nurtured a devastating strike force with World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who frequently tied up three Mexican players, Tevez and Higuain.
"All my life I've picked up the experience that today I'm giving my players with all my soul and heart, saying to the lads 'that's how it was for me'," said Maradona, who has a powerful impact in motivating his team.
Africans were still jubilant on Sunday that Ghana, their only survivor from six teams that started the finals, where in the quarter finals of the continent's first World Cup, after defeating the United States 2-1 in extra time on Saturday.
The victory by a solid and mature Ghana gave hope that they could better the previous most successful African sides, Cameroon and Senegal, who also reached the quarter-finals.
"Ghana has lifted dampened hearts," said farmer Klu Borboley, offering free drinks to youths who had watched the game through the window of a pub in the town of Keta, east of the capital Accra.
Taxi drivers offered special half-fares, drinks flowed and one group of Ghanaians held a mock funeral of a U.S. effigy.
There has been no evidence of a security threat to the World Cup so far. But neighbouring Zimbabwe said it had detained two Pakistani men en route to South Africa, one of them under an international warrant that state media said was for terrorism.
(Writing by Barry Moody and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ossian Shine)