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Massacre at the Maracana

Massacre at the Maracana
In a battle between South America and Europe, Germany and Argentina will contest the 2014 World Cup final. It has been a month of amazing footballing spectacle - on the field and off - and after all the goals and unforgettable moments, from last minute winners to inexcusable dives and ridiculous red cards - we are 90 minutes away from crowning the next champion. Ah, who am I kidding? If the tournament continues the way it has we’ll be waiting over 120 minutes.

Each side has had a very different path into the final. All have required extra time at one stage or another, but in the semi-finals nobody in the world could have forecasted the ease at which Germany would have won. They had Brazil beaten by half time and had an eye and a half on the final on Sunday, knowing it would take the greatest half of all time for the hosts to overcome a 5-0 deficit.

Argentina on the other hand didn’t exactly impress against the Netherlands in the semi-final, arguably being outplayed for much of the game and could’ve lost it late were it not for a phenomenal tackle from Javier Mascherano. For the second time in the knockout stages Argentina went to extra time, seeing out a 0-0 draw and defeating Louis van Gaal’s side on penalties. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero isn’t even first choice for his club at Monaco but stepped up to the plate and saved the first penalty from Ron Vlaar and the third against Wesley Sneijder. Maxi Rodriguez, once of Liverpool, then buried the winning penalty to send the Argentines through.

Despite their easy 7-1 win against Brazil, Germany won’t take Argentina lightly and will be fully aware of the attacking power they can unleash at any moment. The defensive shift in the last two games which saw Philip Lahm switch to full back and move Jerome Boateng into a central partnership with Mats Hummels has helped Germany considerably, making them more efficient in midfield which could be seen in the ease at which they drove through Brazil.

The key will lie once again with Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira, who dominated against the World Cup hosts. They made life impossible for a team that lacked any sort of cohesive structure, punishing them time and time again whenever the defensive four were caught out of position. It is true to say that where Brazil was Neymar, Germany were a team. And Neymar wasn’t even at the game!

Argentina are arguably a one man team too, but at least they have some sort of talent in Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain. Neither have lit the tournament alight but they are both world class players and will give Germany a lot of trouble when behind the ball. With Per Mertesacker on the bench, Germany should be able to handle the pace and power both possess.

The key to Argentina winning of course lies with Lionel Messi. The pressure lies with the Barcelona player to deliver and to win his first ever World Cup, putting him on par with the great Diego Maradona and in many people’s eyes cementing Messi as the greatest ever. Without Messi, Argentina wouldn’t be in the position they are now. He’s capable of winning this game on his own and he’ll be determined to deliver.

The loss of Angel Di Maria is big and was hugely noticeable against Holland. He is the creative spark that links midfield and attack and his absence puts the onus on Ezequiel Lavezzi and Enzo Perez to fill the gap. Argentina have been poor in midfield when they have the ball, where they have a passing and creative weakness.

As I mentioned, Germany are a true team and it’s hard to look past them on Sunday night. They haven’t relied on one single player. Thomas Muller has been fantastic, but so have Kroos and Mesut Ozil. Andre Schurrle has been an excellent option from the bench and even the wily old goalscorer Miroslav Klose has delivered – surpassing the original Ronaldo’s World Cup goal tally against Brazil. They have such a strong squad that Mario Gotze has been nothing more than a bit-part player.

The unity and strength in depth should see Germany finally put silverware to the football revolution they undertook in the early 2000s, when they revamped the youth football structure which has developed most of the talent mentioned above. For Argentina to win, Messi needs his teammates to step having underperformed from an attacking viewpoint against Hollan. Germany will be oozing with confidence, but have a steely determination that won’t let them take Argentina lightly.

If they cope with Messi and quell the supply to Aguero and Higuain then Germany will win. Argentina have a much tougher task in trying to win the midfield battle and keeping the likes of Muller and Ozil quiet. The team from Europe are favourites, but the player from Argentina is incredible and anything is possible.

We’re in store for an explosive final, just sit back and enjoy.

Article By:

Kevin Coleman: www.back pagefootball.com

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