World Cup Final | Rio de Janeiro | Sun 13 Jul | 8pm
Messi’s/Mannschaft’s date with destiny (delete as applicable).
It’s neither the all-South American final the romantics had hoped for, nor the all-European one the bookmakers had expected. But there’s still a bit of history to intrigue us neutrals and we’ll be hoping for a repeat of the 2006 quarter-final, an excellent game that ended in controversy, rather than the 1990 final, a turgid, often violent affair that ended in justice. Both were decided from the penalty spot.
The game in Berlin eight years ago has more relevance than you might expect, with Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose all likely to take the field again; Argentina’s survivors coming in the form of Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez (a starter then, but probably on from the bench this time).
Then, of course, there’s Lionel Messi, a frustrated unused substitute that day, but the man Argentina are pinning their hopes on this time. Yet, after pulling them through the group stages with sporadic moments of brilliance, rather than consistent dollops of it, the great man has rather taken a back seat in the knockout rounds, Argentina grinding out three clean sheets on the way to the final.
Given Germany’s form and World Cup penalty shootout record, however, there’s a feeling the Flea will need to bite them at least once if Argentina are to prevail. He could have Angel di Maria back from a thigh injury to help him, though it’s not clear who would make way for the Real Madrid winger as the more conservative approach deployed against Holland in the semi-final is likely to get another outing.
Germany have no fitness worries aside from Mats Hummels - taken off at half-time against Brazil as a precaution - with overconfidence arguably their greatest concern, although they’ll be aware that non-specialist left-back Benedikt Howedes has yet to be properly tested. Messi, Di Maria, Lavezzi & Co. may look to do just that. Whether Argentina can resist the rampant Germans as well as they did the Dutch is another matter entirely.
What the local media say
“Guys, now you are immortal,” said Morganpost after the 7-1 drubbing of Brazil, but Deutsche Welle are worried that the “fantastic performance could now be a burden”, adding “nothing has been won yet”.
The Argentine media have been quick to praise keeper Sergio Romero’s “hands of God” for their penalty heroics against Holland. He’ll almost certainly need them again against Joachim Low’s team.
Key battle: Sami Khedira vs Javier Mascherano
If Brazil expected Khedira to line up alongside Schweinsteiger in a double midfield pivot as he did in South Africa four years ago, they obviously hadn’t done their homework. Before injury intervened last season, the Real Madrid midfielder had been given licence to bomb forward by Low, which he did against the Selecao to devastating effect in the semi-final (see graphic). He didn’t meet much resistance, mind. That’ll change against Duracellesque destroyer Mascherano. Just ask the Dutch (see graphic).
Facts and figures
- Germany have now reached a World Cup final in each of the last seven decades (1954, 1966, 1974, 1982 and 86, 1990, 2002 and now 2014).
- The last time Germany scored in a World Cup match and lost was the 1994 quarter-final defeat to Bulgaria (1-2).
- Lionel Messi has been the most creative player at World Cup 2014, setting up a tournament-high 21 goal-scoring chances for team-mates.
- Messi has embarked on a tournament-high 65 dribbles so far, completing (another-high) 39 of them.
- No German player has created more chances for their team-mates in the 2014 World Cup than Mesut Özil (15).
- Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano has attempted a competition-high 509 passes so far and also made the most tackles (28).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Sorry Leo, it’s Germany time. 2-0.