Rio de Janeiro
1. The World Cup final won’t be fancy; it’ll be pragmatic.
In the last two matches between Germany and Argentina, Germany won 4-0 in the 2010 World Cup and Argentina won 3-1 in a 2012 friendly. A final like that would be great, and that number of goals would be fantastic.
But I think Sunday's final is going to resemble that of 1990, when West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0. This Argentina team is similar in its makeup. They’re pragmatic rather than spectacular.
Also, there are going to be 22 players walking out of the tunnel side by side, and the difference between playing in the group stage or quarter-finals or semi-finals is that there’s going to be a little gold trophy they stroll past. That, in itself, will mean that fancy football will disappear in favour of sheer pragmatism.
If Germany, who are a good attacking side, go all out and attack Argentina, that will suit the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Enzo Perez. I think we’ll see them get just a little more pragmatic than they’ve been previously, but I still have Germany as my clear favourites. They’ve just got too much ammunition in key areas.
2. Javier Mascherano and Sami Khedira will be absolutely key.
Javier Mascherano will be the key man for Argentina.
Against Brazil, one of the things Germany did exceptionally well was destroy Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho. Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil just went past them, and Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos were getting inside the 18-yard box and scoring goals.
So for me, Mascherano—a man with 104 caps—will be very important to Argentina. He’s a very experienced footballer, and he’s had a very good tournament. But he must provide the sort of protection for his side that Gustavo and Fernandinho didn’t for Brazil.
If he doesn’t—if he puts in a five or six out of 10 performance—Germany will absolutely demolish Argentina.
For Germany, I think Khedira is the key man.
Messi has been disappointing at this World Cup. He picks up the ball and goes on fantastic runs, but he only does that two or three times in a game. The rest of the time, he’s walking around and at times looks disinterested. Yet, we still know he has the magic to win a game by himself.
Khedira has been a bit more aggressive in his tackling in the last couple of games, and he’s going to have to sit a little bit deeper alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger to ensure the German defense is afforded the cover Brazil’s wasn’t.
If Khedira goes too far upfield and starts to join in too many attacks, it will leave Messi against Schweinsteiger. Four or five years ago, Schweinsteiger would have coped well enough on his own, but now he needs Khedira alongside him.
3. Some weaknesses that can be exploited.
The only top-quality, attacking player Argentina have is Messi. Higuain, Perez and Ezequiel Lavezzi have all been disappointing. Argentina's weakness is the fact that their attacking players generally haven’t created a lot of problems.
Argentina’s makeup is mostly defensive. That’s their major strength. They’ll look to get bodies behind the ball and they'll work to frustrate Germany up front.
Defense might be Germany's greatest strength, too. If they go out in the manner they did against Brazil, two things can happen. Either they can win 3-0 or 4-0, or they can get forward with wave after wave of attacks and get picked off at the other end.
4. Toni Kroos should win the Golden Ball.
I would love to see Toni Kroos win the Golden Ball. I think he’s had a fantastic tournament.
I saw his first game against Portugal in Salvador, in what was 85 or 90-degree heat. He made run after run after run into the 18-yard box, and then followed up that match with some spectacular performances.
I know there was lots of speculation that he might leave Bayern Munich, but I think Pep Guardiola would be crazy to let him go. If he does leave, everyone from Real Madrid to Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain—you name it—would want to take him.
5. World Cup final prediction.
I’m taking Germany to win 2-0.
I think they’ll manage to keep a clean sheet and they’ll show what a good side they are by not being overly adventurous but still being adventurous enough to create chances.
Miroslav Klose will push his World Cup goalscoring record to 17 goals, and Kroos will score the second.
Stan Collymore is a former Liverpool, Aston Villa and England striker who has forged a hugely successful second career as a radio and TV broadcaster.
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