World Cup Final Preview, Prediction: Argentina vs. Germany

The World Cup Final ends with a continental showdown, bringing the best team in Europe to the shores of Rio de Janeiro to face the best of South America.

Germany and Argentina meet on the Final stage for the third time in World Cup history. That is the most times any two opponents have met in a Final. Each country took home a World Cup trophy from those matches, with Diego Armando Maradona weaving his way to a win in 1986 and the Jurgen Klinsmann-led Germans taking it all in 1990.

The present-day matchup between both of these soccer powers is enticing. Each have been dominant in their own way, but it is clear that one has been the more feared side — even before the tournament started.

Germany have simply bullied their way through the knockout rounds after a perfect run in the Group of Death. Algeria made a game of it for 90 minutes in the Round of Sixteen, but Germany’s vaunted fitness forced the African nation to run their legs to the ground, making for an extra time victory in Porto Alegre. They beat France 1-0 at Rio de Janeiro; a scoreline that hardly does justice to their dominant performance. Finally, they put the exclamation mark on their tournament — and issued a warning to all competitors — with a historic 7-1 drubbing of host nation, Brazil.

While known for their attacking flare, Argentina have instead found their path to the final behind the one thing no one thought they had; a stout defense. Monaco backup keeper Sergio Romero has played brilliantly in net, with Pablo Zabaleta, Martin DeMichelis, Ezequiel Garay and Marcos Rojo forming a tight knit foursome on the backline.

But the defense goes beyond these five. Javier Mascherano has been a midfield general as a classic number six. A constant disruptor, Mascherano will be asked to do the same against the likes of Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira. Ezequiel Lavezzi has played an important role on both sides of the ball, complimenting the counter attack with the ever-dangerous Angel Di Maria.

How good has their team defense been? Argentina are the only team in this tournament to have shutout each of their knockout round opponents in regular time; a streak of 270 minutes and counting.

In an interesting twist, this Final will be about the Argentine defense against the German offense. Thomas Muller leads a dangerous corps. of strikers and midfielders that can pick apart any defense if given the space to do so.

That’s not to take away from the Argentine offense. One would be foolish to overlook arguably the greatest player in the World; Lionel Messi. It is worth noting, however, that Messi has not scored a goal in the knockout rounds as of yet, but was dominant in the Group stage. The Barcelona star will be paired with a combination of either Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria. Aguero has been declared fit for the match while Di Maria, a vital cog to their wing play, continues to be a game time decision.

IMAGE, DFB.DE

IMAGE, DFB.DE

HISTORY

For Germany, it is their eighth ever World Cup Final appearance all-time. How dominant is their program? They have managed to make the finals in each of the past seven decades. For that, they have taken home three World Cup trophies.

Argentina, meanwhile, have run into a dry spell despite their position as a perennial South American football power. They have won two World Cup trophies in four Final appearances; the last coming in 1986. Their last World Cup Final appearance was in 1990. Up until their match against the Netherlands, they had failed to make a semifinal appearance in 16 years.

Recent history points an advantage to Germany. The European juggernaut have dealt the death blow to Argentina in the past two World Cup tournaments, eliminating them in the quarterfinals in South Africa, and taking a penalty shootout in 2006. The 4-0 loss in 2010 marked the biggest defeat in Argentina’s World Cup history.

PREDICTION

While the 7-1 scoreline will continue to be at the forefront of everyone’s memory, it is important to note that this Argentine squad is far from the defensively-deficient Brazilian team. Their consistent ability to shutout opponents — even in the knockout rounds — gives credence to that.

With that being said, they will have very little room for mistakes. Mascherano must continue his disciplined run in the midfield; a difficult task for the oft-fiery destroyer. DeMichelis will be key at centerback as well. His familiarity with Germany will be key in making the middle of the field no-mans-land for Germany.

For Germany, it will be important to do what they did against Brazil; score first. The longer the game goes back and forth, the better it is for the speedy legs of the Albiceleste. If Germany has any weakness, it is a plodding backline. Their lack of speed played a big part in allowing teams like Ghana and Algeria to nearly snatch victory in this tournament. If Argentina score first, they will be a continuous threat from the counter attack and could expose that one key flaw.

The one x-factor? Home field advantage. Argentina have a massive traveling support that have given them the home-feel — despite the fact that they are playing in enemy territory. Unless Brazilian fans have taken every other ticket for the match and each decided to cheer the team that humiliated them — which is a stretch — Argentina should have the home support in the most likely of settings.

PREDICTION: Argentina 1-0 Germany


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