Javier Mascherano V Toni Kroos Will Decide the World Cup Final

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2014

Netherlands' Arjen Robben (11) is challenged by Argentina's Javier Mascherano (14) during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Francois Xavier Marit, Pool)
Francois Xavier Marit/Associated Press

And so, the World Cup final is upon us. After it is over, this marvellous tournament will also be over, and we will be bereft, horrified at the prospect of having to face the world without football, wondering what we will do with our evenings now. Until, of course, the domestic season starts again in about a month.

Francois Xavier Marit/Associated Press

There will be a number of key battles as Argentina face Germany. Will Joachim Low be tempted to move Philipp Lahm back into midfield in order to mark Lionel Messi, hopeful that he will be able to do as effective a job as Nigel de Jong did in the semi-final? Will Argentina's defence be able to keep track of Thomas Mueller? Will Angel Di Maria be fit to play and will the German midfield be able to cope with his movement?

However, perhaps the key battle will come in midfield, between Toni Kroos and Javier Mascherano.

This is, of course, a tussle that we might see much more of next season. Reports, most strongly in Spanish newspaper Marca, claim Kroos is on his way to Real Madrid, while new Barcelona boss Luis Enrique could move Mascherano back into his favoured midfield role, after spending much of his time at the Nou Camp playing in defence.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Both players have quietly been among their team's best players in this World Cup, if not the best, in Mascherano's case in particular. Kroos has been the catalyst for many of Germany's attacks, he has set up three and of course scored two goals as his team progressed to the final by taking Brazil apart.

Meanwhile, Mascherano has excelled in the spoiler's role for Alejandro Sabella's team, keeping the best attacking talents in the tournament quiet, most notably in the semi-final against the Netherlands, making a superb tackle to deny Arjen Robben a goal that may well have won the game.

Mascherano will be faced with a tougher task against the Germans, who have many more dangermen than the Dutch, as he recognised when quoted by the Daily Mail as saying:

They have technique, potential and style. They beat Brazil, but we will have to be concentrated and make sure they have no space. We can’t think about being in Brazil or that is means more because we are playing in Brazil. It is a World Cup and this is a chance we have dreamed of.

We have to avoid thinking about the scale of the situation. If you play against Germany and you leave space for them then it will be very difficult for us. We need to be narrow, we need to be compact. We will see.

Of course, Mascherano isn't just a tackler. He has played the most accurate passes in the tournament, according to WhoScored.com, with a completion rate of 90.4 percent. The second on that list? Kroos, with a slightly higher completion rate of 91.2 percent.

These are two men who dictate play in one form or another for their sides, and while the game's most notable key moments may come from the likes of Messi or Mueller, it will be won in the battle between these two superb midfielders.