There were concerns about the climate, the venues and everything else that’s usually associated with a World Cup. However, the 2014 tournament has been classed as one of the best ever by a lot of quarters and it all comes to a close this Sunday as Germany prepare to take on Argentina.
While the South American-factor was said to be significant at the start of the tournament, Argentina actually approach the fixture as underdogs. Bearing this in mind, we’ll now take a look at the game in more detail to get an indication on what direction the 2014 World Cup final could be heading in.
This isn’t some sort of new fixture on the World Cup final register; this is a final which has already taken place twice in the past before. In the Mexico 86 final it was Argentina who lifted the trophy, while four years later the Germans avenged that result by winning the Italia 90 event.
However, it’s probably advisable to look at more recent outings to prepare for this next encounter. It was only at the 2010 World Cup that the two last played competitively and this was perhaps one of the early indications that Germany were set for future success. They crushed their opponents in every way imaginable, with the South Americans surrendering to a 4-0 loss at the quarter-final stage. Worryingly for Argentina, seventeen of the players involved that day are in the 2014 squads.
How Did Germany Get Here?
While Germany were one of the top ranked sides ahead of the tournament, they certainly weren’t guaranteed their place in the knockout stages following a tricky draw. They had to contend with Portugal, USA and Ghana – with the latter of these sides taking a point from them. The game against Portugal was billed as the nation’s biggest game at this stage, although a comprehensive 4-0 victory signalled their intentions and allowed them to progress as Group G winners.
The Germans’ first test was dubbed as an “easy test" against Algeria but in truth, it was far from this. Joachim Low’s side required extra time to progress, with the nation eventually succeeding courtesy of a 2-1 scoreline.
Their schedule became much trickier from this point on, with the next test being against the high-flying French. Even though France had looked hugely impressive throughout most of the tournament, Low’s side edged past them after an early Mats Hummels’ header was enough to put them into the semi-finals.
It was at this stage where the neutral’s mouth was really watering, with the Germans now pitted against Brazil. Despite being the host nation, question marks had been hanging over the Brazilians throughout the tournament and this was the night that Germany took full advantage. In one of the most fascinating matches of World Cup history, the nation crushed their opponents in 7-1 fashion – with five of those goals arriving in the first 29 minutes. This stunning result is one of the main reasons why Germany approach this final as favourites for the trophy.
How Did Argentina Get Here?
Argentina on the other hand experienced a slightly easier group draw, with the South Americans being pitted against Iran, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Nigeria. While Alejandro Sabella’s men did pick up maximum points, none of the performances were totally convincing and they won each of their three group games by just the one goal.
The nation continued to adopt a cautious style as they entered the knockout stage, with their last-16 game against Switzerland being concluded with a 1-0 win while it took the same scoreline in the next round against Belgium.
Unsurprisingly, their toughest test game in the last round against the Netherlands. The Dutch had already recorded some impressive results, although this was a game that certainly flattered to deceive. There was a huge build-up, but neither side seemingly had the urge to push for a winner and the match had to be concluded by penalties. Even though the Netherlands had tasted success from the spot in their last game against Costa Rica, lightning was not going to strike twice as the Argentines scored four of their spot kicks as opposed to their opponent’s two.
Considering the different approaches that both sides have adopted, particularly through the knockout stages, it’s no surprise to see that many are classing Argentina as firm underdogs for the final.
In the dugout for Germany is Joachim Low; a man who has been the key influencer in Germany’s rise over the last few years. Starting out as the assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, Low has introduced an attacking blend of football that’s seen him mastermind a runners’ up finish in Euro 2008 and third place in World Cup 2010. This tournament has prompted question marks over some of his tactics, specifically the high defensive line deployed by the team in the early stages, although the fact that they swept aside Brazil in such comprehensive fashion suggests that these reservations have been firmly brushed under the carpet.
Low’s opposite number comes in the form of Alejandro Sabella. It would be fair to say that Sabella is a much more animated figure than Low and he has been the subject of some hilarious instances through the tournament; including falling over himself and some purely over-the-top reactions. However, despite this seemingly outlandish style, Sabella cuts a very strategic form of management. Throughout the tournament Argentina have hardly been ripping through teams and have instead just done enough to progress. Their style is cautious and against a side with attacking prowess like the Germans, this might prove to be hugely beneficial.
The Key Players
The makeup of the German side means that there could be a whole host of candidates for this next phase of our preview, although Miraslav Klose’s recent exploits means that he has won the mantle this time around. Klose might be 36-years-old, and not a certain starter in Joachim Loew’s side, but his strike in the team’s 7-1 mauling of Brazil made him the top scorer in World Cup history with sixteen goals to his name. That was his second goal of this tournament, while overall he has bagged 71 in 136 games for his country. In other words, he’s one of the best poachers that have donned world football.
Unsurprisingly, the Argentinian’s key man is Lionel Messi. Dubbed by many as the best player in the world, Messi has never really taken his exploits from the domestic scene to an international level. However, after scoring four times already through this tournament he has certainly turned things up a notch and is theoretically still within a chance of landing the Golden Boot award. However, he was much quieter in the recent game against the Netherlands, so it remains to be seen if he can showcase his talent against another of the top nations.
Five Facts Ahead Of The Final
To whet your appetite even more ahead of Sunday, we’ll finish the preview with five fascinating facts about the forthcoming fixture.
1. Germany are the more experienced, and ultimately more successful team in relation to World Cup finals. They have appeared in eight finals, winning three of them, while Argentina have won two of the five they have been involved in.
2. While prize money is rarely spoken about in international football, the winning nation will receive $35m for their success, while the runners’ up will get $25m.
3. A lot of emphasis has been placed on the exploits of Miraslav Klose following his record breaking haul earlier this week. However, it could be another German who steals the headlines this weekend, with Thomas Muller currently 2nd in the Golden Boot charts with five goals to his name. One more goal should win him the award, which would make him a winner for the second successive World Cup. No other player has ever managed such a feat.
4. Germany are currently the highest scoring nation in the tournament, with Joachim Low’s side scoring an incredible seventeen goals throughout the event. To put this into perspective, Argentina have hit the back of the net on just eight occasions.
5. While Germany might be classed as the free-scoring side, Argentina have the best record for clean sheets. They’ve kept four out of the six games they have been involved in, although their opponents aren’t far behind having kept clean sheets in three of their outings.