World Cup 2014 Final: Germany vs. Argentina Top Storylines and Predictions

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World Cup 2014 Final: Germany vs. Argentina Top Storylines and Predictions
Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

It's finally here: South America versus Europe, Lionel Messi versus Thomas Mueller, Germany versus Argentina.

883 games since qualification for Brazil kicked off when Montserrat faced Belize in June 2011, these two footballing heavyweights will go toe-to-toe in the grandest of all venues: the Estadio Maracana.

Let's take a look at the main storylines ahead of the culmination of the greatest show on earth.

 

Can Messi Join Maradona, Pele, Zidane and Garrincha in the Pantheon of World Cup Greats?

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

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The old argument that a player can only be considered as one of the greatest once he has won a World Cup has become redundant in recent years with the rise of the Champions League.

Europe's premier competition matches and often surpasses the quality of the World Cup.

However, Messi's football resume needs a World Cup if he is to challenge Pele and Maradona for the title of greatest player of all time. In addition to all of his glory in Europe, success on Sunday would put Messi alongside his compatriot and the Brazilian legend.

After all, even Maradona cannot say that he won both the World Cup and the European Cup.

Wales rugby star Jamie Roberts certainly believes that Messi can lay claim to greatness if he prevails on Sunday:

While he's amassed four goals and three man-of-the-match performances, this has not been a singularly vintage tournament for the man from Rosario.

Despite moments of magnificence against Iran, Nigeria and Belgium, Messi was ineffective against the Netherlands in the semi-final and outperformed by his less illustrious team-mate, Javier MascheranoWhen La Albiceleste needed their artist, it was an artisan who stepped up to push his side into the final.

BBC Sport's Gary Lineker even went as far as to say that Messi has disappointed him in Brazil.

A win on Sunday, and Messi will undoubtedly be considered one of the three greatest players of all time. Lose, and he will likely never experience such a stage on which to demonstrate his talents again.

 

Will a United Germany Win Their 1st World Cup?

Francois Xavier Marit/Associated Press

It will surprise many that Germany has never won a World Cup as a united country. Its triumphs in 1954, 1974 and 1990 came as West Germany and the resultant 24 years without a triumph have come as an anomaly in German football history.

Joachim Low has crafted a fine side that can rightly lay claim to the throne once held by Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus and Gerd Mueller.

Toni Kroos was magnificent in the 7-1 victory over Brazil, but it was a win that was as much about their opponents' deficiencies as it was about the brilliance of the Germans.

Wayne Rooney knows a thing or two about what makes a great player, and he was effusive about Kroos' performance against Brazil:

The seemingly endless supply of supremely gifted Germans produced in the last five years has given Low a plethora of attacking options. Forget the haircuts and sleeve tattoos, this is a proper football team without prima donnas.

Provided they shackle Messi on Sunday, they will cruise to a victory and claim a fourth World Cup.

 

Will Brazil 2014 Be Considered the Greatest World Cup of Them All?

KURT STRUMPF/Associated Press

Many—such as the Daily Telegraph's Jason Burthave justifiably labelled Brazil 2014 as one of the great World Cups. But it can only secure such a claim if the final is befitting of the attacking ethos that has exemplified this tournament.

Carlos Alberto's wonder goal typified Brazil's triumph in 1970 whereas Zinedine Zidane led France to their first World Cup in a victory over Brazil that heralded a new era of world football.

Sunday's final must be played in the spirit that has made this tournament one of the most exciting for many years.

What better way to do that than by pitting the planet's best side against its finest player?

 

Prediction

If Messi drifts out of the game, as he did against the Netherlands in the semi-final, Germany will cruise to a comfortable victory. If Messi can show the form that has electrified European football for many a year, the Germans will struggle to shackle him.

This has been a goodif not vintagetournament for Messi, but he will cement his place in history on Sunday as Argentina edge Germany to earn a hard-fought victory.

Germany 1-2 Argentina

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