Referring to the 2014 FIFA World Cup final as the “moment of truth for Germany and Argentina” is a gross understatement.
The game is so much bigger than what happens on the field Sunday at 3 p.m. ET at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio De Janeiro, and the outcome will ring into eternity.
The final will affect how Germany and Argentina see and conduct themselves on the world stage, and it could change how the world views and treats both nations. This isn’t hyperbole.
Germany has assumed a leadership position — in European soccer and society — in the new century, but the old-world power isn’t certain about how it wants to lead. The “Nationalmannschaft,” as Germany’s national team is called at home, undoubtedly will influence that debate.
Argentina is on the brink of great joy and pain, as its July 31 debt-repayment deadline draws near. A World Cup title will help Argentina’s people brave the inevitably negative effects of another economic shock (or worse).
We won’t know the exact costs and benefits of defeat or victory on Sunday, but they will be set into motion when the game ends with the final whistle. Oh … about that game.
Germany and Argentina didn’t reach this point by mistake. They’ve been the best, most consistent teams at this World Cup — both won five out of six games and drew one — and they deserve to play for the right to call themselves world champions.
Germany is slightly favored to win the final, having thrashed host nation Brazil in the semifinal Tuesday, while Argentina fought against the Netherlands for 120 tense and goalless minutes before winning the penalty-kick shootout in Wednesday’s semifinal.
Many believe the extra day’s rest tilts the balance in Germany’s favor, but Argentina’s fanatical support also will be a major factor.
Here are some other things to consider:
Strengths and Weaknesses
— Germany’s fearsome attack has produced a startling 17 goals in six games. Subtract the seven Germany scored against Brazil, and it would have registered 10 goals in five games, which still is championship-level form. Germany’s winning mentality and professionalism also have shone during this World Cup.
Germany plays with a high defensive line — a risky strategy — and its defenders have been good enough but not great. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer should win the 2014 World Cup Golden Glove Award, but Germany could suffer if his form drops below its current level: perfection.
— Argentina was expected to run up the scores in Brazil, but its stingy defense has carried it so far. Argentina has conceded just three goals in six World Cup games — eye-popping stuff. Some bemoan Argentina’s lack of scoring punch at this World Cup, but it has perfectly balanced attack and defense so far in the tournament.
Argentina hasn’t scored many goals — eight in six games — which is shocking given the amount of attacking talent at its disposal. It should expect a barrage of criticism if it fails to score against Germany.
— Argentina playmaker Angel di Maria is doubtful after suffering a thigh injury in the quarterfinals. Di Maria is racing to be fit for the final but probably won’t be at his devastating best if he plays. Di Maria’s absence or hindrance will be a major blow to his team’s chances.
— Germany defender Mats Hummels is battling tendinitis in his knee but likely will start and play through the pain Sunday. If the problem costs him a step of speed, Argentina’s forwards might exploit it.
What to expect?
The teams are fit, hungry and ready to perform in front of billions of viewers. Germany likely will curb its attacking instincts and take a more cautious approach, while Argentina will be balanced as always. It should make for an open, but tactically intelligent, game in which the teams’ attacking stars will shine brightest. We pick Argentina to win 2-1.
This is the third time Argentina and Germany will meet in a World Cup final, and we’re expecting it to be a charm — a classic final to end an unforgettable tournament. Brazilians are calling the 2014 World Cup the “Copa das Copas “ (or “World Cup of World Cups”). Brace yourselves for the “Finale das Finales.”
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