An even and intriguing match is anticipated when Argentina and Germany meet at Rio’s famous Maracana stadium on Sunday in the 2014 World Cup final (8pm BST, live on BBC1 & ITV).
Argentina’s route to the final saw them top a group featuring Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran before seeing off successive European opponents in the knockout rounds. Switzerland, Belgium and Netherlands have all been eliminated by Alejandro Sabella’s side.
The semi-final victory over Netherlands was achieved on penalties following a cagey 0-0 draw through normal and extra time. Argentina successfully shackled Arjen Robben for large spells of the match and while they did not create many chances of their own, did edge the balance of play. Sergio Romero saved twice in the shootout to see them through.
Netherlands gave Lionel Messi similar treatment to that afforded to Robben by Argentina and he was unable to influence the match in the way he may have hoped to. The attention given to him did, however, provide space for his teammates. If either Gonzalo Higuain or Sergio Aguero can perform well on Sunday, Messi’s goals may not be required for victory.
The best Argentinian player was Javier Mascherano. He was truly superb in the holding midfield role, expertly patrolling the space in front of the back four, timing his tackles well and distributing efficiently into midfield. Ezequiel Garay and Pablo Zabaleta also did a good job in defence. Argentina were cautious, but their solidity was nevertheless highly impressive.
Sabella will hope to welcome Angel Di Maria back for the final after the Real Madrid winger missed the semi-final with a thigh strain picked up in the last eight victory over Belgium. He has been training with the squad, but current reports suggest he is unlikely to be fit enough to make the starting lineup. Argentina have no further injury concerns.
Germany progressed to the knockout stages by topping their group ahead of United States, Portugal and Ghana before defeating Algeria, France and hosts Brazil to reach the final. The latter win was the most comprehensive semi-final victory in the history of the World Cup.
It was clear before the match that Joachim Low’s (pictured) side had the necessary talent to defeat Brazil if things went their way, but no-one would have predicted the eventual margin of victory. Buoyed by four goals in six first-half minutes, Germany won 7-1 to completely obliterate the hosts in front of their own supporters.
Low’s side played swift, slick and incisive passing football, cutting through the Brazilian defence at will and showing extreme coolness in front of goal. Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira all scored once while Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle scored twice. After a controlled quarter-final victory over France, this was Germany in top form.
They will, however, be wary of over-confidence coming into the final. Germany have suffered one final and two semi-final defeats at major tournaments during Low’s time in charge. They will be determined not to suffer another setback with a first international trophy since 1996 up for grabs, although concerns remain about their lack of pace at the back.
Low will be without backup defender Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) for the final. Mats Hummels is carrying a knee injury and was taken off at half-time in the semi-final win over Brazil as a precautionary measure. He is, however, expected to start this World Cup final match.
Argentina vs Germany World Cup Final Betting Tips Verdict
Germany have knocked Argentina out of each of the last two World Cups, but Argentina have the upper hand historically, having won nine of the previous 20 encounters. Germany’s seven wins include victory on penalties in the 1990 World Cup final, which served as revenge for Argentina’s triumph in the final of the 1986 competition in Mexico.
Argentina have edged their way through the knockout rounds with three consecutive clean sheets and will again hope to use their well-organised and solid defensive unit as a basis for victory. The quality they possess in attack forces their opponents to take a more cautious approach, wary of leaving them space to exploit on the break.
Germany have, however, been more proactive than most during the World Cup and certainly approached their semi-final victory over Brazil as if they were confident they had the necessary talent to emerge victorious. They will look to start on the front foot and establish an early lead, as in the semi-final and earlier wins against Portugal and France.
We expect this to be a slightly more open game than Argentina’s semi-final, but we would still not be surprised if extra time, and possibility penalties, are required to separate the sides.