For 90 minutes on Sunday, time will stand still in the soccer world. Argentina and Germany will face off in the greatest spectacle in sports at the 2014 World Cup final, and the players on the winning side will experience a mix of euphoria and national pride that can’t be found anywhere else.
Bleacher Report UK pointed out that this isn’t exactly the first time these two soccer powerhouses have done this:
Now that the table is finally set for the championship match after a month of thrilling action, here is a look at the remaining two fixtures and broadcast information:
|Remaining 2014 World Cup Fixtures|
|Game||Date||Time (ET)||Matchup||TV||Live Stream|
|Third-Place Game||Saturday, July 12||4 p.m.||Brazil vs. Netherlands||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|World Cup Final||Sunday, July 13||3 p.m.||Germany vs. Argentina||ABC||Watch ESPN|
Argentina got here by the skin of their teeth with a thrilling victory over Netherlands 0-0 (4-2) that needed a penalty shootout to break the stalemate. Sergio Romero came through when it mattered most and turned back two of Netherlands’ four penalty attempts, while Argentina buried all four of theirs.
It was a game defined by sustained possession, strong and stifling defense and a general lack of offensive ingenuity or risk, likely out of fear of a counter from Lionel Messi or Arjen Robben.
Once Argentina finally prevailed, you could sense an overwhelming feeling of relief sweep over the Argentina superstar, as Bleacher Report UK noted:
In the other semifinal, Germany was absolutely astounding in their 7-1 dismantling of Brazil.
From the 23-minute mark to the 29-minute mark, Germany poured in four goals and completely shocked the raucous Brazilian crowd. The only drama that remained by halftime was how many fans in the crowd would actually shed tears.
Even German midfielder Toni Kroos was taken aback, via Sam Borden of The New York Times: “If someone had said before that we are going to win 7-1, I would certainly not have believed it.”
If we are projecting ahead to the final, it would be easy to look at the recent evisceration of Brazil and predict a German victory. After all, how often do we see a performance like that from any team at any level of sports, let alone a World Cup semifinal match on the opponent’s home turf?
Still, Argentina will pose much more of a challenge. Brazil was virtually listless after Germany scored their second goal (hence the blowout), but Argentina will bring a much more organized and efficient defense.
Still, Germany’s defense has been a thing of beauty during the World Cup.
They shut down attacks from the United States, Portugal, France and Algeria with timely tackles and efficient ball control and will look to do the same on Sunday.
Don’t overlook Argentina’s defense though, which has improved as the World Cup has progressed. Argentina pitched shutouts against Switzerland, Belgium and of course the Netherlands, and have looked much more reliable on that end of the field than they did in group play, when they allowed two goals to Nigeria and another to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The question now becomes which defense will blink first against either the ruthless German attack, dominated by incredible passing and overall teamwork, or the Argentina offense, propelled by superstar Messi and his brilliant creation off the dribble.
Messi has scored four of Argentina’s eight goals in the World Cup and assisted on another, so Germany will clearly have to focus much of their defensive effort on containing No. 10.
Despite Messi’s individual brilliance, it is just too difficult to pick against the red-hot German side right now.
They have so much momentum after that performance against Brazil, get scoring from a number of different sources and have the reliable Manuel Neuer in net behind that stifling defense.
Argentina also just played 120 minutes and a penalty shootout in the semifinal, which was likely physically and emotionally draining. Contrast that to the cruise control that Germany used in the second half against Brazil—which also occurred a day earlier than Argentina’s match—and the Germans will be the fresher side.
Think of this along the same lines of the San Antonio Spurs' destruction of LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Argentina may have the best player in the world, but Germany has the superior team.
Prediction: Germany 2, Argentina 1
Follow me on Twitter: