The world’s best player, Lionel Messi, stands between German dreams and restoring South American pride, amidst talks of tiredness and poor form. Here’s what works for both teams in tonight’s finale at Estadio do Maracana, in what many rate, has been the best football World Cup ever.
What works for Germany:
1) Germany are in familiar territory playing their eighth World Cup final; more than any other nation.
2) Supreme confidence throughout the tournament - from battering Portugal in first game to hosts Brazil in last.
3) Extremely well oiled, mean and consistent machine desperate to win an international trophy.
4) Lionel Messi has been shackled in all three knockout encounters. The alternate spearheads haven’t been effective either - Di Maria is injured, Higuain has been inconsistent and Aguero still recovering.
5) Die Mannschaft have solidity unlimited, supreme cohesion and multiple leaders all over the park. It helps that six of their starters play for Bayern Munich. Pep Guardiola will be smiling in his living room, when the teams march out.
6) The Bayern Munich brigade also carry a psychological edge over Messi and Mascherano, having battered Barcelona 7-0, over a year ago.
7) While Ochoa, Howard, Ospina, Navas and Romero kept hitting headlines, Manuel Neuer has been best goalie of the event.
8) Germany have beaten Argentina the last three times they encountered in world cup - 1990, 2006 and 2010. The last of which was Argentina’s biggest defeat ever (4-0).
What works for Argentina:
1) All the pressure is on Germany, for the golden generation to win something beyond club competitions, lest be dubbed as chokers. Their record in international competitions since 2006 stands thus: Semifinalists in WC’06, Finalists in Euro’08, Semifinalists again in WC’10, Euro’12 and now finalists again in 2014.
2) Argentina have already overachieved considering they never played their best and progressed despite a suspect defence, a goalie who was warming the bench majority of the season and misfiring strikers. They have less pressure.
3) The monkey is also off Lionel Messi's back, as history will remember him taking the nation to a World Cup final. The big stage now awaits to give him a bonus.
4) The Albiceleste have improved every game, as they progressed. Each knockout encounter produced a new hero. Di Maria, Higuain, Mascherano, Romero There is a feeling their best is yet to come.
5) First time in WC2014, sky blues and whites will get good, vibrant, noisy crowd support. Brazilians will be divided now as many wouldn’t support a team who humiliated the hosts 7-1.
6) Demichelis, Rojo, Zabaleta and Garay have ensured that Argentina have now not conceded a goal for 375 minutes. Argentina have most clean sheets, four, in this event.
7) Having played three tight European defences in a row, Argentina are well prepared on what to expect. Germany comparatively, haven’t played a team with solidity of the Argentinian defence and unpredictability of strikers.
8) Despite the last three losses in world cups, Argentina hold a far superior head to head record over the Germans, having won nine and lost six out of 20 games played. The last meeting, on Aug 2012, saw Argentina win 3-1 at Frankfurt.
Prediction: No other fixture has been played as often in a World Cup final as Germany v Argentina. This is the 10th time teams from Europe and South America face each other in the final. Seven of these finals have been won by the teams from South America. World cups held in Americas have only been won by a South American team. Historical trends will continue, Argentina to win 2-1 in a Extra Time.