History Says Argentina Will Defeat Germany in World Cup Final in Americas

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History Says Argentina Will Defeat Germany in World Cup Final in Americas
BRUNO LUCA/Associated Press

You are unlikely to find many fans from the host nation prepared to admit it. But a clash between Argentina and Germany in Sunday's World Cup final, played in no less a stage than Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana Stadium, is a fitting climax to a tournament already destined to go down in history. 

A 7-1 destruction of Brazil has inevitably installed Germany as favourites for the clash. How could they not be?

The way Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos and the rest of Die Mannschaft pitilessly dismantled the home team, leaving the squad in tears on the pitch and millions of supporters shell-shocked, was a message for the world. 

The Albiceleste certainly will not need any reminder of the danger posed by Joachim Low's men. They have been there before, a 4-0 drubbing in Johannesburg four years ago ending the madcap era of Diego Maradona in the World Cup quarter-finals.

That defeat was every bit as painful as the one suffered by Brazil just days ago, but a repeat is unlikely to occur with Alejandro Sabella's well-drilled side. 

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

A tight, no-holds barred clash can be expected in the Maracana then, with either team capable of taking the advantage and crowning itself champion. If nothing else, the Albiceleste at least know they have the weight of history on their side. 

Sunday's final is the sixth time a European and South American team have met in the deciding fixture of a Latin American World Cup. The previous encounters hardly set an encouraging precedent for Low and his men; all five were won by the team from the western banks of the Atlantic Ocean.

The series between the two continents began in 1958, albeit on European soil and coinciding ironically with the emergence of Brazil's dominance at international level. Few European observers at the time could have known who they were facing looking at a team sheet composed entirely of local players.

A winger named Garrincha was there and a gaggle of young pretenders up front from tiny Sao Paulo club Santos.

One of whom, a rangy 17-year-old, went by the name of Pele, mercifully shortening his name from Edson Arantes do Nascimento. By the end of the final, a 5-2 thrashing of hosts Sweden inspired by two strikes from their new teenage superstar, nobody would ever take the Selecao lightly again. 

Associated Press

Pele was not as influential four years later as the tournament moved to Chile, but nothing could stop Brazil by that point. Amarildo, Zito and Vava netted to end Czechoslovakia's dreams in the final, setting off a pattern of wins that was continued in 1970 when an ageing Pele signed off his international career with a 4-1 destruction of Italy.

The Latin American hoodoo continued for Europe's challengers, as captain Carlos Alberto lifted the trophy in Mexico's Estadio Azteca. 

A brutal military dictatorship and the disappearance of some 30,000 people formed an unhappy backdrop for the next World Cup to visit South American soil. Hosts Argentina have subsequently battled with mixed emotions over that black period in their history.

Nothing lays plainer the contrast between sporting glory and political turmoil than the testimony from inmates at the infamous ESMA detention centre, just a few hundred metres from River Plate's Monumental Stadium, that they could hear the shouts from the stadium in their dingy cells as they wondered whether they would ever see the light of day again. 

But win Argentina did. The Netherlands were without the talismanic Johan Cruyff, but the core of the team whose "Total Football" had reached the final in 1974 was still there.

But Mario Kempes lived up to his name of the Matador, scoring twice as the Albiceleste triumphed 3-1 after extra time to take their first-ever title.

Carlo Fumagalli/Associated Press

Democracy had returned to Argentina in 1986, and the World Cup did the same. A 17-year-old Diego Maradona had been left in tears by Cesar Menotti when he was left out of the 1978 squad, but the Napoli man came back to write his own name in history in Mexico against West Germany.

El Pibe de Oro did not find the net in the Estadio Azteca, but he was still key in a 3-2 victory that once more put Argentina on top of the sporting world. 

West Germany took revenge in 1990 with a narrow 1-0 win in Italy, the last time ever that side graced the final.

But Europe's best have still been unable to break South America's hold on their own continent. Italy, in 1994, came closer than anyone. The Azzurri, inspired by the brilliant Roberto Baggio, took Brazil to a penalty shootout after a turgid 120 minutes of defensive football.

But Baggio, alongside fellow legend Franco Baresi, went from hero to villain as his kick was denied by Claudio Taffarel, and a fourth World Cup for Brazil was lifted by Dunga in the United States. 

It is easy to read too much into historical precedent. But Germany will be more than aware they are attempting a feat that has never been achieved in football's greatest competition.

The American continent has been an unhappy stage for European teams, and Argentina will be desperate to carry on a tradition that has become sacred in the region. 

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