Football proved this week it can be both a beguiling and brutal game as well as tedious and annoying.
The twin dribbling kings Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben were about as effective as homeopathy in the semi-finals. RVP was harder to spot than a Jaffa among the Netherlands’ fans and the less said about Gonzalo Higuain the better.
It speaks volumes that Dutch centre-half Ron Vlaar was the standout performer of a dire 90 minutes that saw less action than a Mormon high school prom.
Louis van Gaal threw on Huntelaar at the start of extra-time, thereby using his third sub, denying himself the services of quarter final hero Tim Krul.
And it was a mistake that ultimately cost the Netherlands, with Jasper Cillessen putting up all the resistance of a wet paper towel as Argentina cruised through to the final after the least dramatic penalty shootout on record.
The sum total of those matches sets up an intriguing final:
The Germans are big favourite going into this one, and it’s easy to see why. Against Brazil they sensed blood and went for the jugular.
To compound Brazil’s embarrassment news broke that the Germans agreed at halftime to go easy, and not humiliate their opponents on home turf.
Whether you believe that was the case, or whether it was a psyche-out aimed at their final opponents, Germany should have nothing to fear despite the potent attack of Argentina.
Their midfield has proved time and again that it has the potential to control a match against any team in the world.
Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, are the most formidable midfield in international football, not just now, but for perhaps the last decade. It is tough to see how Argentina will be able to counter them.
The best option open to them might be trying to go round them or over them - if they get bogged down in midfield, we get the feeling they won’t get out of their half, other than to take the ball back to the centre circle.
We don’t see Germany running away with this one in such spectacular fashion - but we could comfortably imagine a 3-0 final scoreline.
Argentina’s best hopes lie in its wingers. If Angel Di Maria is even 60 per cent fit he’s a must. PSG winger Ezequiel Lavezzi has also proved effective and will need to be on form if Argentina are to find any penetration.
Pablo Zabaleta must use every inch of his immense stamina to constantly offer an overlap, pulling the full-back out to create the opportunity for short through balls to Sergio Aguero and Higuain.
Given this style of play, it’s hard to see how Messi will find possession given his preference for dropping deep to collect the ball.
All that said, any team with Messi in it is a team with a chance. And if there’s one thing Germany’s centre-backs lack it’s mobility, something Aguero and Messi are apt to exploit.
Whatever happens, we can’t wait.
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