A World Cup final, and what better stage than the historic Maracana! On Sunday, as Germany take on Argentina in a fight for the ultimate prize in football, one can expect a lip-smacking contest.
A close look at the two teams throughout the tournament has made one thing rather clear. Germany, with a strong midfield, have the advantage of being able to attack in a more constructive way. Argentina, on the other hand, have till now been a one-man show, with Lionel Messi being their talisman.
Germany have the best midfield among all the teams in this World Cup. The fact that they have not depended on one star, have made them stronger. It’s a team that boasts of midfielders like Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle. Each one of them, even when they have come in as substitutes, have shown that apart from their role in the midfield, they are capable of scoring.
Upfront, lone striker Miroslav Klose, has never really been short on support, especially with Mueller surprising the opponents.
A strong defence, led by captain Philipp Lahm, with the likes of Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boetang has allowed the midfielders and forwards to play freely, adding a sting to their attack. The defence has never left gaps for opponents to exploit.
Frankly, I don’t really see any negatives in the way they have planned and executed their attacks throughout the tournament.
For Argentina, both their positives and negatives have centred around one man — Messi. Messi has shown that he can do almost anything — he has come up with the best moves, passes and free-kicks. On the flipside, if he fails to deliver on Sunday night, the whole team can collapse.
This over-dependence on their star can prove to be their doom. On the positive side though, you really cannot ignore the fact that he will perhaps be the most talented player on show on Sunday.
Argentina can also bank on Gonzalo Higuain, who can create havoc against the Germans, along with Messi. With at least two defenders engaged to mark the Barcelona superstar, chances are that Higuain will be more free to score. Also, if Angel Di Maria is fit to play, that can be a huge advantage for them.
Add to it the confidence gained after winning via the shoot-out in the semi-final against Netherlands. They can now feel that even if the final goes down to the wire, they can still emerge winners.
But if I have to identify a single player from either side who can make a difference in the final, then there can be none other than Mueller for Germany and Messi for Argentina.
Mueller has impressed me hugely. This attacking midfielder is not only a play-maker, but he can himself be a threat, moving up as the second or third striker.
The 24-year-old has already scored five goals in this Cup, and is a strong contender for the Golden Boot award. He is creative, agile and opportunistic. In fact, it was his early strike that ruined Brazil’s confidence in the semi-final.
Messi, however, does have what it takes to emerge the star of the match. If Messi gets going, then there can be no stopping Argentina. He can score, and also set up perfect assists. Even his mere presence on the field is a positive as Germany will have to mark him. closely, leaving space for the other Argentina forwards. Maracana now awaits a magical night.