6 Players to Watch on Day 32 of the 2014 World Cup
Argentina face Germany on Sunday for the right to be crowned world champions, and the final at the Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro is the culmination of a fantastic tournament in Brazil.
Argentina have one of the planet's best players in Lionel Messi, but in the semi-final Germany put in a wonderful team performance to destroy hosts Brazil 7-1.
Here's a rundown of six players who can decide who lifts the trophy on Day 32 of the World Cup. Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree or add your own.
Toni Kroos, Germany
Germany will perhaps never get the credit they truly deserve for their 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil. It will be remembered as much for Brazil's disintegration as Germany's style and swagger.
Central to that was Toni Kroos, who scored twice and could have had a hat-trick. After the win over Brazil, Kroos told reporters he's confident of reproducing his fine form against Argentina, via the Daily Star's Tim Gray.
"Despite the great performance against Brazil, we're here to win the World Cup and we're not there yet," Kroos said, adding, "I'm in a great mood and I'm feeling fit. That's why I was able to come up with a performance like this [against Brazil]."
It was Kroos' relentless pressing and incredible ball retention that had Brazil so flustered during that nightmare period in the first half. Another performance like that, and Germany will have a good chance of being crowned world champions.
Martin Demichelis, Argentina
Not so long ago, Martin Demichelis was being described as a Manchester City flop. Manuel Pellegrini's judgement was being questioned after he spent a little over £4 million on the 33-year-old, and Demichelis' red card against Barcelona in the Champions League was a low point.
Since then, he has helped City win the Premier League title, forced his way into Argentina's World Cup squad and now has the chance to become a world champion. With Demichelis in the starting XI against Belgium in the quarter-final and the Netherlands in the semi-final, Argentina haven't conceded a goal.
He is still capable of making mistakes, but he's brought a calmness and maturity to Argentina's defending in the latter stages of the tournament.
Manuel Neuer, Germany
Manuel Neuer has been one of the best goalkeepers on show at the World Cup. Not only has he made some terrific saves, he's taken the role of "sweeper keeper" to a new level, mopping up behind Germany's back four.
The look of disgust on his face when he conceded a late goal against Brazil with Germany already 7-0 up tells you everything you need to know about his commitment to the cause.
A World Cup winners' medal would be a fitting prize for one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Javier Mascherano, Argentina
If anyone thought Argentina were a one-man team before their semi-final against the Netherlands, they don't anymore. Lionel Messi was anonymous before scoring in the shootout. That Argentina even got that far was as much down to Javier Mascherano's performance as anything else.
If he hadn't dived in to stop Arjen Robben from scoring, it would be the Netherlands rather than Argentina playing Germany in the final. It was something that stuck in Bastian Schweinsteiger's mind as he discussed Argentina's qualities, per the Express' Steve Brenner.
"We have to keep our cool, stay calm and patient," Schweinsteiger said. "Argentina are an excellent side who deserve to be in the final. They have world-class players in Messi, [Angel] Di Maria and Mascherano. Mascherano was the leader of a pack of wolves."
Miroslav Klose, Germany
Miroslav Klose isn't the most glamorous of strikers. He doesn't get the heart racing like Pele, Ronaldo, Gerd Mueller or Just Fontaine, but Klose has scored more World Cup goals than all of them.
He might be 36 years old, but he's shown again and again that he knows how to put the ball in the net. In a tight, nervous game—which the World Cup final usually is—that's a wonderful quality to have.
Klose has already made history at this World Cup, but per The Guardian's Dominic Fifield, that's not enough for him. "Yes, I have overtaken Ronaldo as the best goalscorer but that is something to take on board another day," Klose said. "If we lose the final, my joy as the top scorer will be significantly dampened."
Lionel Messi, Argentina
If Lionel Messi puts in a performance against Germany that's anything like his best, it will be remembered as his final.
But if he struggles to have an influence, as he did against the Netherlands in the semi-final, it might be remembered as a missed opportunity to join Diego Maradona and Pele as one of the game's greatest-ever players.
He has played his part in getting Argentina to the final, but they looked toothless in the semi-final as Ron Vlaar and Nigel de Jong kept him quiet.
"He's got great individual skill, but winning means everything to him," Beckham said. "If other team-mates score goals he's the first one there to celebrate with them and I think that says a lot about him."
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