The match started slowly as both teams sized each other up, and although it was Germany's Philipp Lahm who had the first shot in the 23rd minute it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous of the two sides.
The home side, wearing new black jerseys, managed to close the visitors down and Argentina's first real chance didn't come until the 38th minute when Angel di Maria dribbled his way past sea of German defenders to fire off a shot.
Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler, fresh from being named Germany's first-choice goalie for the World Cup this week, pulled off a spectacular save, deflecting the ball onto the woodwork.
One of the biggest cheers of the first half came when Argentina coach Maradona trapped a ball on the sidelines, showing he hasn't lost his touch as a former World Cup winner, having beat West Germany in 1986.
But just before the break, disaster struck for the Germans with a slip-up from Adler, who plays for high-flying Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen.
Adler sprinted out of his goal to intercept the ball from a fast-approaching Higuain, but the Real Madrid star won the challenge, rounding the 'keeper and tapping into the open goal.
The episode was unacceptable to long-term 'keeper Oliver "King" Kahn, now resigned to the commentary box.
"If you leave your goal you have to make sure you get the ball. Otherwise you should stay on your line," he said.
In the second half both sides made changes up front, Manchester City's Carlos Tevez for Higuain and for the Germans, Brazilian-born Stuttgart star Cacau for Werder Bremen's Mesut Özil.
The Germans came out looking better than in the first period, winning more possession and creating more pressure in the opponents' half, but didn't manage to be dangerous enough.
Their best chances came though Cacau, who has been on sparkling form in the Bundesliga, with shots in the 77th and 83rd minutes, the second a half-volley which whistled over the crossbar.
According to Fifa's latest world rankings, Germany is number five – four places above Argentina at nine, one behind England.
But Maradona's side, which only scraped through qualification, always looked the more comfortable.
"I want my boys to come home with the World Cup. They should be the new heroes," Maradona said before the match.
Argentina is drawn against Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in the World Cup, which runs from June 11 to July 11 in South Africa. Germany will face Ghana, Serbia and Australia.