Yesterday, the Dutch were sent home by the Albicelestes of Argentina in the second semi-final match up. That means that we know who will be participating in what should be one of the more anticipated games in recent World Cup history. No, I’m not talking about the Loser Bowl third place game between Holland and Brazil. We’re talking the World Cup finals, which will pit Argentina and Germany together in a final battle for the trophy. Germany is attempting to win their nation’s fourth World Cup (1954, 1974 and 1990), while Argentina is trying to win their third (1978 and 1986). Who is going to win it all? Let’s find out.
Overall, Argentina and Germany have faced each other six times in World Cup play. In Sweden 1958, West Germany beat Argentina in the group stage. In England 1966, the two teams drew 0-0, also in the group stage–pretty boring stuff. However, in 1986 and 1990, the two teams turned up the heat on the burgeoning rivalry, facing each other in the final both times. That’s right, these two squads faced each other in consecutive World Cup Finals, which is pretty impressive. In Mexico 1986, a Diego Maradona led Argentine squad used all their tricks to make it to the finals, including the hand of God himself, and then beat West Germany 3-2 in the final, in front of 114,000 people at Estadio Azteca. Argentina’s goals were scored by José Luis Brown, Jorge Valdano and Jorge Burruchaga. Four years later, the Jürgen Klinsmann led West Germans got their revenge with a 1-0 victory over “El Pibe” and the Argentines in front of just 73,000 in Stadio Olimpico in Rome (seriously? only 73K?). The German goal was scored on a penalty kick by Andreas Brehme in the 85th minute.
Teammates mob Andreas Brehme after his decisive penalty kick in the 85th.
The more recent history of this rivalry heavily favors the Germans, as the Germans have sent Argentina home in the quarter-finals of the each of the last two World Cups (in PKs in Germany 2006 and and in a 4-0 drubbing in South Africa 2010). You know Argentina would love some sweet revenge in this mostly one-sided rivalry. By the way, in case you’re wondering, only Italy and Brazil have faced each other multiple times in a World Cup final (Mexico 1970 and USA 1994). On Sunday, Argentina and Germany will take the lead in that department.
With all that being said, what can we expect in 2014? It’s hard to say. Germany has been rather inconsistent, winning 4-0 against Portugal to kick off the group stage, then only managing a 2-2 tie against Ghana and a 2-1 win against Algeria sandwiched in between 1-0 wins against the United States and France. It’s not that they didn’t play well, they just seemed to have a lot of trouble staying in rhythm. Their defense has held up extremely well, which has kept them in the the tournament, but they didn’t look as unbeatable in their other games as they did against Portugal. Everything clicked for them against Brazil, as they completely destroyed the hosts, scoring five first half goals on their way to a 7-1 win in Belo Horizonte. The Germans showed how good they can be when all of their stars play well, and it was down right scary. Sure, the Brazilians gave up on life after the second goal and made countless mistakes, but Germany took advantage of every single one. Not every team has the talent to do that, and it was very impressive. We talked about this team at length after the Brazil game. Their talent level and organization is second to none, and they won’t be easy to deal with if they’re on their game.
Toni Kroos celebrates Germany’s third goal against Brazil.
Argentina, meanwhile, has won every game they have played in this tournament so far, but they haven’t really looked all that great in amassing that undefeated record. They needed an own goal by Boznia and Herzegovina to get the three points against them in the opener, got a 91st minute goal from Lionel Messi to just sneak by Iran 1-0, scored three but gave up two against Nigeria and then barely beat both Switzerland and Belgium 1-0 during the knockout stage. Against Switzerland, they needed 118 minutes to score their goal, in what was a pretty pathetic game. The Argentine defense has played great all cup, but Messi seems to be the only one doing anything on offense. the Albicelestes have 8 goals this cup: Four were scored by Messi, one was an own goal, and at least two of the others were set up by their diminutive leader.
Against Holland, Messi found himself neutralized, and without Ángel Di María and a fully healthy Sergio Agüero, the Argentine offense had no chance. They barely even threatened Dutch goalie Jasper Cillessen on the night, and when they had opportunities, they couldn’t finish. Thankfully for them, the defense was just as stingy as Holland’s, and Sergio Romero saved two penalties. It wasn’t the prettiest win, and certainly didn’t send a message like Germany’s win against Brazil, but they made it to the final. That’s all that matters.
Argentina celebrates their semi-final win against Holland.
With their crushing defeat of the hosts in the semis, momentum would seem to be on the side of the Germans. Frankly, I’d be an idiot to argue with anyone who said any different. If the same German team that trounced Portugal and Brazil takes the pitch against Argentina, they will knock the Albicelestes out of a third consecutive World Cup. Argentina’s defense is too good to get blown out of the water like the other two, but they simply won’t be able to handle Die Mannschaft at all (sorry, that joke was on a tee). Also, if Argentina plays the defensive waiting game, like they have been this entire tournament, Germany will beat them too. Argentina’s hope is to play more aggressively on the attack, and hope that the Germans aren’t quite as on their game on Sunday. It’s certainly not an impossibility. Argentina’s defense is legitimate. They just need to wake up and be more creative on offense. They can’t continue to rely only on Messi to create chances. Either way, I expect this one to be a low scoring affair–one that might end up in penalty kicks again.
Look. No European nation has ever won a World Cup in the Americas. Uruguay won in Uruguay in 1930 and in Brazil in 1950; Brazil won in Chile in 1962, Mexico in 1970 and USA 1994; and Argentina won in Argentina in 1978 and Mexico in 1986. If Germany thinks Argentina is just going to lay down and let them be the first Euros to steal a cup on our turf, they have another thing coming. There is no love lost between Uruguay and Argentina, and under almost any other circumstances, I’d be wishing ill will on them and laughing it up when they lost. This Sunday’s game is not about our neighborhood rivalry. This Sunday is about keeping the cup where it belongs, and I hope “La Pulga Atómica (the Atomic Flea)” give the Germans the fight of their lives.
Featured image courtesy of: Michael Steele/Getty Images
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