The 2014 World Cup final will be a familiar one as international powers Germany and Argentina will meet with everything on the line for the third time in their respective histories.
Germany enters the match coming off a dominant and shocking 7-1 shellacking of host Brazil. Argentina, on the other hand, outlasted the Netherlands in a penalty shootout. None of that matters now, though, as it comes down to one game for soccer supremacy.
Fans couldn't ask for much more as both sides boast some of the best players in the world across multiple positions. Germany and Argentina have been the closest thing to perfection throughout this tournament, so it is fitting that they are the last ones standing.
Here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch Sunday's World Cup final as well as a look at which players will loom largest in the quest for the trophy.
Where: Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Sunday, July 13 at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. BST)
Live Stream: Watch ABC
Although he is just 24 years of age, German winger Thomas Mueller has already established himself as one of the all-time great scorers in World Cup history. He bust onto the scene four years ago by winning the Golden Boot and he has proven unequivocally that he is no flash in the pan.
Mueller now has 10 career World Cup goals to his credit, making him the third-youngest player to reach double digits on the big stage, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Thomas Muller is the 3rd-youngest player with 10 World Cup goals, behind only countryman Gerd Muller and Hungary's Sandor Kocsis #BRAvsGER— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 8, 2014
One of those goals came in Die Mannschaft's 7-1 drubbing of Brazil, and he scored a hat trick earlier in the tournament against Portugal. Mueller always seems to find himself in ideal scoring positions, which makes him an incredibly dangerous player for the opposition.
Attacking is Argentina's bread and butter more so than defending, but the Albiceleste can't afford to let Mueller run wild and free. If he does, then a second consecutive Golden Boot could be in the offing. Per ESPN FC, Mueller trails Colombia's James Rodriguez by just one goal for that distinction:
When push comes to shove, though, Muller's focus is solely on winning. According to The Express Tribune, Mueller would gladly pass on a second Golden Boot if it means hoisting the World Cup.
"The goal record doesn't interest me at the moment; I have already got one Golden Boot," Mueller said. "I want to be a world champion, that's something I haven't won yet."
Mueller may have no choice in the matter, though, since Germany might need him to score in order to reign supreme. Mueller has so many huge goals to his credit already that it is quite easy to envision him putting on another performance for the ages.
Arguments have been made for Cristiano Ronaldo and the controversial Luis Suarez, but there is little doubt that Argentina's Lionel Messi is the top player in the world. The dynamic attacker has been the Albiceleste's biggest weapon throughout this tournament with four goals, and his cool penalty against the Netherlands in the semifinals set the stage for Argentina's advancement to the final.
Messi is interesting in that he can go long stretches without touching the ball, but all it takes is a few seconds of elusive dribbling coupled with a laser shot to make the opposition pay. There is a certain amount of suddenness to his game, which is why teams have to keep track of him at all times.
According to the German national team's official Twitter account, coach Joachim Low fully intends to focus on Messi and do everything he can to game-plan against him:
Löw added: "They have brilliant players in attack like Messi and Higuain. We'll prepare well and we're looking forward to Rio." #GERARG— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) July 10, 2014
Some players are simply too good to be neutralized by tactics, though, and Messi falls into that elite group. His best assets are his speed and his ability to get past defenders with relative ease. That much is clear from this stat, courtesy of OptaJoe:
65 - Only 3 men have made more dribbles in a single World Cup than Messi 2014. (Maradona 90 1986, Jairzinho 70 1970, Kempes 68 1978). Mazy.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 10, 2014
Messi is going to get his touches and dribbles, but Germany has to do everything possible to keep him on the perimeter. One minor miscue could be a nightmare for the Germans as Messi almost always capitalizes on his opponents' mistakes.
The Argentinians have several players who can score, but it all runs through Messi and his play in the final will have everything to do with how Argentina ultimately fares.
Which player will make the biggest impact in the 2014 World Cup final?
When it comes to Germany, much of the emphasis is placed on its incredible attacking talent. That is certainly understandable, but the Germans also happen to have a world-class goalkeeper between the pipes. Manuel Neuer is as good as they come, and he may ultimately play a bigger role than anyone in deciding the World Cup final.
Neuer has been spectacular throughout the tournament, but his level of play has been particularly evident during the knockout rounds. Neuer was incredible against Algeria in the round of 16 as he repeatedly exited the box and prevented the Algerians from generating dangerous scoring chances.
He may have been even better in the semifinals against Brazil. It is easy to lose sight of that fact since Germany scored seven goals, but Neuer turned away attempt after attempt and faced a barrage of shots, per OptaJohan:
8 - Germany faced 8 shots on target vs Brazil, the most in one World Cup game since 1974 (vs Poland). Neuer.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 9, 2014
Having Neuer in net gives Germany a huge amount of confidence and swagger. The German players know that their last line of defense is rock solid and they have made their feelings known regarding Neuer's place in the world goalkeeping hierarchy, according to Steffen Potter of UEFA.com.
"Manu simply is the best keeper in the world," defender Jerome Boateng said.
Neuer will have to live up to that billing with the likes of Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero bearing down on him Sunday. If Neuer's performance is consistent with what he has done thus far in Brazil, then Germany will be victorious.
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