Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Germany and Argentina have the chance to etch their names into the history books when they take the field in the World Cup final on Sunday at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
In one of the best World Cup tournament’s in recent memory, one of two differing narratives will play out over the next 90 or more minutes. If Argentina win, and especially if it comes with a huge performance from one Lionel Messi, La Pulga will catapult his name firmly into the discussion of the greatest players ever to play the game of soccer.
If Germany win, however, they’ll become the first European nation to win on South American soil and will validate all the money and time put into revamping their system after their disastrous performance in Euro 2000.
In addition, it would be a great achievement considering the hard road Germany had to take to even make the final. Joachim Löw’s side played three games in the heat of the Brazilian northeast, have played without Marco Reus in their squad, and of course routinely embarrassed Brazil, 7-1, in the semifinals, which may end up being the most memorable match of the competition.
But ignoring the narratives for a moment, let’s look at the current state of both teams.
Germany is coming off the Brazil victory with an extra day of rest and a game that they hardly had to exert themselves in. Argentina on the other hand have a day less of rest and had to play the full 120 minutes before advancing to the finals on penalty kicks.
Injury-wise, both teams seem to be recovering well. Mats Hummels, who was substituted at halftime of the win over Brazil, is fit for action for Germany, while Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero are fit for selection, though it’s unlikely either will start.
In terms of tactics, Argentina have proven at this World Cup that they can defend at a high level, and that they’re best on the counter-attack or when Messi pulls a goal out of no where. But Germany represent a different challenge, with an interchangeable front four including Thomas Müller with five goals, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, and Mario Götze.
Javier Mascherano played the game of his life to mark out Arjen Robben from the match but he’ll need extra help from his midfield partners Enzo Perez and Lucas Biglia to close down the passing lanes that Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger find on a regular basis.
Considering Messi, Löw could decide to keep Lahm at right back and keep Jerome Boateng in central defense so that they have a faster centerback to keep up the Barcelona star.
Whatever the outcome, the World Cup final should live up to the greatness of this tournament, filled with individual moments of brilliance and fine team performances.
What do you think of today’s match? How do you see it playing out? Who do you think can win it all?
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