Two great footballing nations meet in today’s World Cup 2014 final at the famous Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Germany, having humiliated hosts Brazil 7-1 in the first semifinal on Tuesday, will do battle with Lionel Messi and Argentina, who narrowly squeaked by the Netherlands Wednesday on penalty kicks.
These two sides have met in World Cup finals before. Diego Maradona led Argentina to victory at home in 1986, but couldn’t overcome a dubious red card and penalty in Italy 1990. It might be telling that each of those two matches was won by the country playing on its home continent. European and South American sides have met in the final on nine previous occasions; European teams are 0-7 outside Europe and 2-1 on the old continent (Pele’s Brazil beat Sweden at Sweden 1958). Still, the Germans have knocked Argentina out of the last two World Cups, and they can certainly have no fear of hostile crowds after their last match. This one will be decided by the players, plain and simple.
What’s At Stake
The Argentines are chasing their third World Cup, which would put them level with Germany and tied for third-most, behind Brazil (five) and Italy (four).
Germany can catch up with Italy today at four World Cups apiece, or slip to a record fifth runner-up finish. The only other team with more than two is Holland, 0-3 in World Cup finals.
Germany’s Thomas Müller has a chance to become the first player ever to win the Golden Boot (top scorer) in successive World Cups. He has five goals so far. Colombia’s James Rodriguez scored six.
Müller’s teammate Miroslav Klöse can also extend his all-time World Cup goals record of sixteen; interestingly, sixteen is the total number of World Cup goals scored by all the players on the Argentinian roster put together.
(Also, not that anyone involved on the field really cares, but the winners take home $35 million, part of which will be distributed to players as bonuses. The losers’ share is $25 million.)
In numbers, it’s a German 4-3-3 vs. An Argentine 4-2-3-1 today, but the styles are completely different.
Against Brazil, Germany split their midfield “3” into one deep midfielder (Bastian Schweinsteiger, nullifying Brazil’s Oscar) and two pressers (Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos, tormenting Brazil’s Luis Gustavo and Fernandinho). The Germans have been using a similar shape throughout the tournament, but Joachim Löw’s decision to move Philipp Lahm from midfield to right back seems to have made it much more effective. The energy of the midfield trio was difficult to handle for both France and Brazil.
Since Argentina’s coach Alejandro Sabella uses the same 4-2-3-1 system as Brazil, it seems likely Germany will attempt to play the same system and even focus attacks on the same side, with Argentine left back Marcos Rojo considered something of a weak link.
So, same systems as the 7-1. But same results? Not likely. Not because the incomparable Messi will have his way; in fact, Oscar played quite well for Brazil in the same position Messi will play today. The difference will be in Argentina’s deep back six, where Rojo will be nowhere near as irresponsible as Marcelo and where Javier Mascherano patrols the defensive midfield zone. Mascherano has made more passes and more tackles than anyone else in this tournament. His importance to Argentina was illustrated by his performance against Holland, when he directed the show and made several crucial tackles despite apparently suffering a concussion.
If Germany press Mascherano and Lucas Biglia as aggressively as they pressed Gustavo and Fernandinho, they’ll be playing a dangerous game. Argentina have speedsters up top and Mascherano has the passing range to find them.
It’s a toss-up if this one goes to penalties. Germany are 4-0 in World Cup penalty shootouts and Argentina are 4-1, having lost only to Germany (Germany 2006).
Players to Watch
Germany: Toni Kroos. The young midfielder will have the easier defensive assignment, marking Biglia rather than Mascherano, and he makes great decisions with the ball. If he wins it high up the pitch, he’ll play the right pass quickly.
Argentina: Mascherano. Watch him try to maintain control of the match.
Ian Darke and Steve McManaman. They were the only entertaining thing about the first semifinal after thirty minutes (aside from crying Brazilians). Excellent commentators, wonderful rapport.
Match-specific Drinking Games
Idol: Take a sip whenever Diego Maradona is mentioned. Bonus shot for his image being shown onscreen. How drunk? Tanked. The comparisons. Just. Won’t. Stop.
Lockdown: Take a shot whenever Javier Mascherano makes a successful tackle. How drunk? Floored. He’ll be under lots of pressure and he has been incredible in this World Cup.
Shackles: Take a shot whenever the targeted Lionel Messi receives the ball and turns without being challenged. How drunk? Thirsty as a snake.
Argentina: Malbec. Is Argentina the classy choice?
– Read my general World Cup watching guide.
– Check out Zonal Marking, my favorite tactics website.
– See a preview of each commentator.
– See where I’m getting my national drink recommendations.
– Check out other match previews involving these teams: Holland vs. Argentina, Brazil vs. Germany, France vs. Germany, Argentina vs. Switzerland, Germany vs. Algeria, USA vs. Germany, Germany vs. Ghana, Argentina vs. Iran, Germany vs. Portugal, Argentina vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina
Picture credit: grohe.com