The FIFA World Cup 2014 has reached its epic conclusion. We finish with a tactical preview of the grand-stand finale on Sunday: Germany vs. Argentina.
Joachim Low is expected to name an unchanged side for the final, meaning Philipp Lahm continues at right-back and Miroslav Klose retains his spot up front.
The formation is less obvious, as the very pliable midfield of Die Mannschaft can take many shapes: 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 are all possibilities.
After thrashing the hosts Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final at the Maracana, they enter the showpiece event with outrageous momentum, and based on the tape of their last two victories, there aren't any genuine weaknesses for Argentina to take advantage of.
"We know we can write history," Low told reporters on Saturday, per Newsday.com. "South Americans have always dominated on their continent and this is an extra incentive for us."
For Argentina, the big pregame news will surround the possible availability of Angel Di Maria.
The Real Madrid man is a key part of his side's dynamic despite his poor form in the competition, and if he's passed fit he'll line up on the left and provide graft, hard running and dribbling ability.
That'll relieve focus on Lionel Messi—teams have been keying on him even more so while Di Maria has been out—and free up some space for Gonzalo Higuain to work in. He needs it, bless him, as he's been misfiring all tournament long.
Ezequiel Garay and Martin Demichelis have struck a chord together in central defence, so Federico Fernandez will likely sit out. Javier Mascherano will be central to any hopes of containment.
"We need to play the perfect match," manager Alejandro Sabella told reporters ahead of the game, per Goal.com.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Mascherano vs. the World
Spare a thought for Mascherano ahead of this game, as he is set to lock horns with Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Thomas Mueller near single-handedly in the final.
Germany's midfield manipulation and clever overloading of channels and zones have won them their last two games, and where Yohan Cabaye and Luiz Gustavo failed, Mascherano will be required to succeed.
The nightmare starts with Kroos' clever positioning, continues with Khedira's physical running and ends with Mueller slotting home. He'll be racking up the tackles and fouls in no time.
2. Off the Ball
Argentina get a nice matchup here as Germany, in all likelihood, will end up sitting in possession and be forced to probe for an area of weakness. It allows La Albiceleste to sit in with six or seven behind the ball and simultaneously stretch the pitch for themselves vertically.
If they can do that, they can release quick runners into space and ask Messi to find them with pinpoint passes. From there he can pick his targets, checking in on the mobility of Benedikt Howedes, the positional sense of Jerome Boateng and any space that appears behind Philipp Lahm.
The opportunistic approach can win it for Sabella.
We previewed every single FIFA World Cup 2014 game. Feeling nostalgic? You can check back on them all here.