Germany's attack is the talk of the globe heading into the 2014 World Cup Final against Argentina. Seven goals against the host nation in a World Cup semifinal will do that for your reputation.
Die Mannschaft are now regarded as an unstoppable attacking machine, but a strong performance from Argentina's midfield can slow down the German offense and give Lionel Messi and Co. a chance to win the title.
Argentina's attack will rely on this aspect, as coach Alejandro Sabella often has Messi pick up the ball deep in midfield and set the pace for the team's approach to the final third.
If Messi can safely combine with the likes of defensive midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia, the team can hold the ball while still utilizing Messi as the focal point of the attack instead of shuffling long balls to Gonzalo Higuain or Sergio Aguero.
Mascherano and Biglia have acquitted themselves well in this regard, completing 90.5 and 89 percent of their passes, respectively. This will force Germany to rely on the counterattack to score goals.
Of course, if there is any team that can wreak havoc on the break, it is Germany.
Michael Cox, writing for The Guardian, notes that Germany doesn't rely on the counter, but some of its best attacks have come via that method:
Germany don’t depend upon counter-attacking as much as in 2010, but their most dangerous attacks against Brazil were quick, direct and about breaking into space. When Argentina get numbers behind the ball, they’re extremely solid, and they’re yet to concede a goal in the knockout stage of this competition.
Argentina turned in a strong performance against the counterattacking Netherlands in its victory on penalties in the World Cup semifinal. The Oranje were unable to net a single goal over 120 minutes of play despite featuring Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder in attack.
Mascherano was key to that effort.
The Barcelona star has been insatiable when it comes to breaking the opposition's hearts in the final third. He leads La Albiceleste with 28 total tackles and is third on the team with 2.2 interceptions per game in the tournament. He's done all of this while committing just 1.2 fouls per game.
Mascherano has drawn considerable praise for his efforts in this tournament. BBC Sport's Phil McNulty noted his impact and relayed German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger's thoughts:
Mascherano emerging as one of the star performers in the World Cup. Schweinsteiger says he is "the leader of a pack of wolves."— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) July 12, 2014
Mascherano will be key to preventing Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos from making the killer entry passes and crosses that Thomas Mueller or Miroslav Klose will be all too happy to turn into goals. He's also been quite poetic and inspirational in his comments leading up to the match.
"It’s a delight, a delight, that lifts your soul," Mascherano said, via Fox Sports' Jonathan Wilson. "It’s something you can’t explain, it’s something I never imagined, but there we are."
If Argentina's midfield can prevent Germany from advancing with a full head of steam, it will make the job that much easier for the central-defensive pairing of Martin Demichelis and Ezequiel Garay.
Garay has been particularly stunning with his tournament performances. He's averaged 1.2 tackles and 9.8 clearances per game in this World Cup.
The Mirror's Oliver Holt praised his performance amid the drudgery of Argentina's semifinal match against the Netherlands:
Like many others, I have not found this an enthralling game. I have enjoyed the performances of Vlaar, Zabaleta, Garay and Mascherano though— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) July 9, 2014
Garay has proved to be a master at cleaning up the mess with all of those clearances; Argentina needs to decrease his workload in this regard, as it can free up Garay to focus on marking Mueller and/or Klose.
If Argentina wins the World Cup, it will be the country's first since 1986 and cement Messi's status as one of the all-time greats, for both club and country.
Germany is looking for its first title as a unified country; it last won the World Cup in 1990 competing as West Germany. It would prove to be a stunning send-off for Klose, as he will end this tournament with the all-time scoring record in World Cup play.
All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com, unless otherwise noted.