With the World Cup’s showpiece event just one day away, Rhys Stevens runs the rule over both teams.
After 63 matches encapsulating the drama, flair and brilliance that a Brazilian World Cup tournament was expected to offer, it all culminates with the World Cup final tomorrow.
The world’s eyes will be focused on the cathedral of football that is the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro for one final epic clash between close neighbours Argentina and a rampant Germany.
Both Argentina and Germany will attempt to recreate memorable spectacles between them in the finals of the 1980s and 1990s. Both the sides’ last triumphs in the tournament came facing one another, with the Germans overcoming the Argentines in Italy in 1990 and the South Americans and the marauding Maradona defeating the Germans in Mexico back in 1986.
History beckons of course for Joachim Löw’s men, as they bid to be the first European nation to lift the coveted trophy on Latin American soil. With the 7-1 semi-final annihilation of their Brazilian hosts, not many would see this unprecedented achievement as beyond their grasp. Die Mannschaft have had the edge over Argentina in their recent World Cup encounters, defeating them on their home turf on penalties back in 2006 and thrashing then 4-0 in South Africa 4 years ago.
The exciting yet inexperienced Germany that dismantled England four years ago has matured into an irresistible force within four years. Seasoned campaigners such as Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been joined by young charges Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle. It is difficult to pinpoint a weakness in the German set-up, as they have a solid defensive unit, lethal attack and perfect blend of youth and experience. No doubt this current crop has the minerals to banish the demons of recent tournament disappointments, most notably losing to Brazil in their last final in Japan in 2002.
Goalscoring has been the cornerstone of Germany’s success in Brazil. Clinical finishing from the inspired Thomas Muller and newly crowned goal scoring record holder Miroslav Klose has seen them notch up an astonishing 17 goals leading up to the final including drubbings of both Portugal and Brazil. It’s just not individuals breaking records for the Germans in 2014, as the drubbing of Brazil meant that Germany have become the highest scoring nation in World Cup history, surpassing Brazil with 223 goals.
Miroslav Klose became the World Cup’s all-time leading goalscorer when he
netted against Brazil Image: The Heckler
For Argentina, it has been a far more sedate route to the final, being defensively strong and physical, and more likely to nick the game when it matters rather than launching full out attacks. Their defensive strength has often in the past been seen as their glaring weakness compared to their plethora of attacking talent boasting Tevez, Aguero, Lavezzi and Messi in recent years. However, Argentine boss Sabella has quashed that view, with the South Americans having only netted 8 times during the tournament.
The strict emphasis on defensive play has paid dividends in the knockout stages, in which they have yet to concede. La Albiceleste have been miserly all tournament only shipping 3 goals in the group stages. Javier Mascherano’s gutsy performance in the semi-final stalemate against Holland demonstrates his importance to the defensive dynamic that will need to be on top form to shut out the free scoring Germans.
Argentina have called upon the brilliance of Lionel Messi this tournament to get them through some sticky situations against underdogs Switzerland and Nigeria. However, the Barcelona man was worryingly pedestrian in the semi-final against the Dutch. Argentina will need their finest asset to rise to the occasion befitting of his enormous talent if they want to penetrate a stern German defensive unit and man mountain Manuel Neuer in goal.
Germany’s leading centre-back Mats Hummels is expected to be available, after missing the second half against Brazil as a precaution while he was recovering from suspected tendonitis. Aside from that minor concern, Die Mannschaft can expect to name the same the side that humiliated Brazil in the semi-finals.
In the Argentinian camp, midfielder Enzo Perez, who impressed against Holland, is set to keep his starting place, as Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria should not be fit enough to start after just recovering from a thigh problem. Sergio Aguero has completely recovered from a similar injury and boss Sabella may place him ahead of Gonzalo Higuain or Ezequiel Lavezzi in the starting line-up. Left-back Marcos Rojo failed to complete Friday’s training session with a sore ankle, but it should not be serious enough to rule him out of contention.
If Argentina are to win tomorrow, Messi’s contribution will need to be instrumental
For English fans this final will be the intriguing case of picking between two ‘old enemies’ as their favourite to win this clash, but one can be sure that the Germans can count on the full raucous support of the Brazilian nation to overcome their bitterest rivals.
Will Löw’s Germany carry on their blitzing form and end the agonising 24 year wait for honours? Or will Lionel Messi seize his opportunity to cement himself as an all-time great and lift the great trophy deep in enemy territory? For him and Argentina nothing would be sweeter.
Featured image: www.bbc.co.uk