It's only fitting that one of the best World Cups in history will end with a clash between two giants, as Germany and Argentina will face off in the 2014 final in Rio de Janeiro.
The Germans emerged as a World Cup favorite before play began and justified that by winning the "group of death." They were tested in extra time against Algeria in the knockout stage but are most recently coming off an emphatic 7-1 drubbing of Brazil.
Lionel Messi leads his Argentine side fresh off an emotional win on penalty kicks against the Netherlands in the semifinal. They were held scoreless for 120 minutes, but two saves from Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the shootout propelled them to face Germany.
The final is a rematch of a couple of previous World Cup championships, per ESPN Stats & Information:
Here is the complete viewing information for the match, along with odds and predictions:
|Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sun., July 13||3 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Team||Odds to Win|
Note: Odds are courtesy of Odds Shark, updated as of July 9.
Messi Will Be Held Scoreless Again
There's really little doubt about the fact that Messi will earn an undeniably important addition to his all-time resume with a win in Sunday's final. But despite Argentina's victories, he's been kept under wraps as of late.
In the group stage, Messi was a force with four goals in three matches. The first knockout affair included his crucial assist on Angel Di Maria's winner, but lackluster performances have ensued.
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Messi did have the best match rating of any Argentine against the Dutch, per WhoScored.com. But the stats also indicate he only amassed 70 touches, which was fifth on the team and on pace with other attackers. Plus, his only shot of the entire match was a free-kick opportunity.
Argentina opted to play a more defensive style, allowing the scoreless match and the Netherlands' potent attack to dictate their game plan. There were a few good offensive opportunities, but Messi was rarely found in space.
The Netherlands did a fantastic job of marking him, and he will face an even tougher challenge against Germany. They have the size in the midfield and central defense to frustrate the Barcelona man just as Nigel de Jong and the Dutch players did.
Sergio Romero Will Keep Argentina in It
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero isn't yet a household name, but he's won the favor of Argentina fans with his stellar play in goal over this World Cup.
He was magnificent in the semifinal against the Dutch and will need to up his game even more to deal with the inevitable German flurry of opportunities.
Although he made just one save through 120 minutes, Romero was relied upon as the final line of a suffocating defense and did not disappoint. When the penalty kicks came, he shined brightest with two crucial saves to put his side through.
As told by Germany's seven-goal onslaught against the host country of Brazil, there will be no shortage of chances for the German side to pull in front. But with Romero at top form and coming off three straight clean sheets, he will keep Argentina around for another 120 minutes.
Another Penalty Shootout Gives Germany Title
After all of the flair, the goal-scoring flurries and epic comebacks, it's interesting to see how quickly defense has taken over.
Penalty shootouts have been the norm in Brazil in these elimination stages, and in the final match of the tournament, it will once again come down to five penalty-takers for each team.
Germany are the favorites heading into this match, and they possess the quality across their starting 11 to give the Argentines real trouble. There won't be any lack of confidence after getting past the Dutch, but the step up in competition will be too much for Argentina to handle.
Romero's brilliance will keep them in it and force things to a penalty shootout—a place the Germans haven't been to thus far in this World Cup. But with enough star midfielders to field two national teams and a heap of clutch finishers, Germany will have the advantage when those 120 minutes are through.
Both of these defenses have proven impenetrable, and it wouldn't be surprising to see another scoreless affair to end play in Brazil. After that, a couple of saves from Manuel Neuer will give Germany their fourth title.
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