What Is the Biggest Weakness for Both World Cup Finalists?

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What Is the Biggest Weakness for Both World Cup Finalists?
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Germany and Argentina will battle it out for football's ultimate prize at the Maracana on Sunday, and while both teams deserve to be in the World Cup final, neither is flawless.

There are few national teams without weaknesses; they are simply a part of international football.

While the great club sides at any one time are almost faultless, at international level managers do not have the luxury of spending money to bring in, say, a top-class left-back if they are lacking quality in that position. They simply have to make do with the players they have available to them.

That being said, Germany will start as favourites in the final, as there are very few weak links in their current squad.

La Albiceleste, meanwhile, have rarely looked impeccable throughout the 2014 World Cup, yet they have managed to fight their way to the final thanks to a growing team spirit and the remarkable exploits of one man in particular.

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In terms of results, the Germans were only less-than-perfect on one occasion. Aside from their 2-2 draw with Ghana in the second group game, Die Mannschaft have won every one of their games, though they needed extra time to defeat Algeria in the second round.

Those two matches against African opposition may hold the secret to beating Joachim Low's highly impressive side.

Germany looked in control against Ghana, leading 1-0 in the second half, before the Africans upped the intensity and struck twice in nine minutes. When the Black Stars realised they were on the brink of World Cup elimination, they suddenly lost their fear of their opponents and pushed forward with attacking intent.

This attitude caught the Europeans off guard. Once Ghana got their noses in front, they looked more than capable of extending their lead on the counter-attack, as Germany appeared somewhat rattled. Miroslav Klose came off the bench to rescue a point for the three-time world champions, but there will certainly be lessons for Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella to take from that game.

Germany defender Per Mertesacker admitted the Black Stars had pushed his team in the game, as BBC Sport reported:

It could have been worse today. We expected them to perform physically. The way we came back was magnificent. We are proud of that performance even if it's just a draw.

We are a good team and we showed that today. In a special way our comeback was good. We still got a draw so we're still in a good position. Our confidence is still high.

Against Algeria, and even in their 1-0 win over the United States, Germany showed that they are far less comfortable when the opposition is playing vibrant, fearless football.

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The key, then, appears to be to show Germany the respect they deserve without playing as though awestruck. Argentina must remain compact against their opponents but still play positive and expressive football when they have possession.

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La Albiceleste's faults are easier to pick out.

Sabella has set the side up to remain solid in defence while giving Lionel Messi the freedom to weave his magic in attack.

The major flaw in this plan is that if the opposition can shut down Messi through intensive marking, Argentina have shown they have few other creative outlets going forward.

Angel Di Maria has looked the man most likely to unlock matches after La Pulga, but he is in major doubt for the final as he continues to recover from injury.

As Bleacher Report tactics writer Sam Tighe wrote:

For Argentina, the big pre-game 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.

The likes of Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain should all offer an attacking threat, but they have not done so consistently enough in this World Cup.

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The Netherlands have done the best job so far of closing down Messi, but in dedicating themselves to that task, they relinquished much of their own offensive impetus.

Germany are unlikely to abandon their own successful formula simply to contain Messi, so the Argentine No. 10 should have some scope to make his mark on the final.

If he can't produce a glorious performance in the final to cap his magnificent career, Argentina will most likely have to settle for second place at Brazil 2014.

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