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A plan to stop Messi

Santo Andre: The German camp were keen observers of Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands, and watched with interest as the Dutch defenders were able to subdue Lionel Messi for most of the game.

Hansi Flick, Joachim Loew’s assistant coach, also said on Thursday that while the German players realised they go into Sunday’s final as favourites, they know that the tag is meaningless in a World Cup final.

Flick declined to reveal how Germany might go about keeping the four-times World Player of the Year quiet at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana.

“We’ve played a lot of matches against Argentina in the past,” he said. “And we’ve also got a plan. But we’re not going to reveal that here to you.”

Right back Benedikt Hoewedes, who helped Germany stop Cristiano Ronaldo in their 4-0 opening win over Portugal, said it was important to swarm Messi and not get caught one-on-one.

“Messi is a fantastic player, one of the best in the world, but so was Ronaldo,” said Hoewedes. “We’ve got to work as a collective unit against him because we’re not going to be able to beat him one-on-one. When we play together tightly, even a great player like Messi will have a hard time. If we can defend decently as a team, we’ll contain him.”

Germany have made it to two of the last four World Cup finals but have not won the title since West Germany beat Argentina in 1990.

“We know that we’re considered the favourites,” said Hoewedes. “The team is clever enough to avoid being led astray by that tag. We’re not going to let any external factors distract us.”

Even though Germany knocked out the hosts in their 7-1 semi-final victory on Tuesday, Flick said the team hoped home fans would cheer for them in Sunday’s final against Brazil’s arch-rivals Argentina.

“All of us are hoping for support from the Brazilians,” he said. “I thought it was a wonderful gesture the way Brazilians celebrated for us on the journey home to Santo Andre on Wednesday night. All along the way, there were Brazilians cheering us. It was really fantastic.”