DAY 32 of the 2014 Fifa World Cup sees the curtain fall down on what is arguably the best finals tournament of all time. Germany and Argentina will face off in the Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, where one of them will become champions and win the most prestigious prize football has to offer.
It is expected to be pulsating clash with both teams looking to win their first crown in over 20 years. Indeed the last time they both got their hands on the trophy they beat each other. A Maradona-inspired Argentina defeated the Germans 3-2 in Mexico 86 and a Lothar Matthaus-led Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in Italia 90.
Both sides went into this tournament with high hopes and boasted a fierce attacking outlook however for Argentina that hasn’t been the base for their success.
Much of their good work has come down to their defence who have proved a stiff nut to crack. With a rejuvenated Martin Demichelis alongside Ezequial Garay, and Javier Mascherano sitting just in front of them, they have yet to concede a goal in the knockout stages. 1-0 wins over Switzerland and Belgium and a penalty shoot-out success over the Netherlands in the semi-finals weren’t exactly easy on the eye however unlike their other South American rivals, they have made it to the final.
Without Lionel Messi they would have struggled to get this far however with Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Rodrigo Palacio struggling for form in front of him.
Angel Di Maria’s fitness is a concern ahead of the final with the Real Madrid man struggling with a thigh injury. Alejandro Sabella will hope his winger overcomes his injury ahead of kick-off tomorrow but his goalkeeper Sergio Romero is in confident mood.
Romero, who struggled for first-team football last season at French side Monaco, was the hero in the semi-final win over Holland. His two penalty saves enabled La Albiceleste to advance and he reckons his sides battling qualities will be crucial: “We will remember what the champions of 1978 and 1986 achieved but we will also try to achieve glory by the fight and heart of this team. Maybe for many people it is not the dream final, because they wanted us to play Brazil, but it will be a fantastic game.”
With the discipline of Lucas Biglia and Mascherano it has been difficult for sides to break down Argentina with only three goals conceded so far. Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo have caused problems for opposition sides with their pace and ability to get forward in support of their attacking team-mates and they will once again utilise their strengths to push the Germans back.
Many feel though that if Argentina are to win today’s showpiece event Barcelona ace Messi will need to be at his very best otherwise the Germans could take the top prize home.
Joachim Low’s side eased into the knockout rounds of the competition after dismantling Portugal 4-0 in their opening game before a 2-2 draw with Ghana and a 1-0 win over the USA helping them through the so-called “Group of Death”. A major scare in the second round, they beat Algeria 2-1 after extra-time, threatened to halt their progress but a gritty 1-0 win over France in the quarter’s answered any critics they had.
It was their 7-1 annihilation of the hosts Brazil in the semis which raised eyebrows though. It as a result which shocked the footballing world. No team had ever been beaten so comfortably as Selecao were, at their own World Cup tournament. It wasn’t just the scoreline which sent out shock waves, it was the performance to go with it.
Right from the start Germany were in sparkling form and their pace and fluidity of their attacks were a joy to watch. They were 5-0 up inside 29 minutes with Miroslav Klose scoring his 16th World Cup Finals goal of all-time, a new record.
Defender Mats Hummels admitted after the game that at half-time his team-mates agreed to ease up on Brazil to spare them any more embarrassment.
Germany’s Thomas Muller goes into the game with his eye on two prizes. Apart from the main trophy itself he could also claim the Golden Boot as the top goalscorer. So far he has five goals and he trails Colombia’s James Rodriguez by a solitary strike. The Bayern Munich man was the top goalscorer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and could make it a double triumph.
The goals haven’t just came off the boot of Muller however with seven other players also finding the net. Klose, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Andre Schurrle are also proven match-winners on their day and the Argentine defence will have to be at its best to stop the Germans from wreaking havoc.
Defensive midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira have also been vital to Germany’s success in Brazil with Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Howedes, Mats Hummels and Philipp Lahm proving to be a match-winning back four. In Manuel Neuer the Germans have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he has been in top form when needed to this summer.
Five players who will play this evening are in the running for the Golden Ball – the World Cup’s best player – with Hummels, Kroos, Lahm and Muller from Germany, with Di Maria, Mascherano and Messi being the candidates from Argentina.
Germany and Argentina last met at the World Cup in 2006 and 2010 with the Germans winning on both occasions. Their most recent meeting was a friendly in Frankfurt in August 2012 which Argentina won 3-1.
1) This will be the eight time Germany or West Germany have appeared in a World Cup final – a new record. They have won three and lost four of the previous seven finals.
2) A fourth victory would see them match Italy’s tally – only five-time champions Brazil have a better record.
3) A win would mean they become the first European side to win the World Cup in the Americas.
4) The Germans have lost more finals (four) than anyone else. That includes three defeats in their last four final appearances.
5) Germany are unbeaten in their last 17 internationals (W12, D5). Their last defeat was a 4-3 loss to the USA in a friendly in June 2013.
6) In Thomas Muller’s 12 World Cup appearances he has scored 10 goals and assisted six more.
1) La Albiceleste have kept four clean sheets at this World Cup – a joint-high with Netherlands – and have yet to concede a goal in the knock-out stage.
2) Lionel Messi has created 21 chances at the 2014 World Cup, more than any other player.
3) Messi has failed to score in his last three games. He has not gone four international matches without a goal since Alejandro Sabella took charge of Argentina in August 2011.
4) Argentina were eliminated by Germany at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. No team has ever been eliminated by the same opponents in the knock-out stage of three successive World Cups.
5) Argentina’s squad has an average age of just under 29 – if they win they will replace Italy (2006) as the oldest World Cup winners.
6) They are the only team who have yet to fall behind at the 2014 World Cup.