Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 13th 2014 Contents RIO DE JANEIRO---The most
entertaining World Cup in a
generation comes down to a
final match that pits the planet s
best player against the tourna-
ment s best team.
Lionel Messi will lead Argenti-
na out against Germany at Mara-
cana Stadium today for a game
that will define careers, cement
legacies and be watched by a
global audience of about a billion
And it s a matchup that means
more to both sides than just a
chance to lift one of the most
hallowed trophies in sports.
For Messi, it s a chance to
firmly make his case for being
perhaps the greatest ever to play
the world s most popular game.
For Germany, it s an opportunity
to make up for a number of
near-misses over the last decade
and re-establish itself as the
dominant force in international
And then there s the matter
of settling a historical score.
Argentina and West Germany
played each other in two straight
World Cup finals in 1986 and
90, games that are well remem-
bered in the sports psyche of
Diego Maradona and Argenti-
na won the first, the Germans
took the second. So call this
game the tiebreaker.
Most would name Germany
as the favourite, especially after
its astounding 7-1 drubbing of
host Brazil in the semifinals.
Argentina only reached the final
after eking out a penalty shoot-
out win over the Netherlands
following a 0-0 draw through
Germany also dismantled
Argentina 4-0 in the 2010 quar-
ter-finals in South Africa.
One thing speaks against Ger-
many, too. No European team
has ever won a World Cup played
in the Americas. Whether that s
because of the climate, the fan
support or something else, Ger-
many thinks it can buck the
"We are looking forward to
playing a South American team
in South America but we hope
the Brazilian fans will be sup-
porting us," Germany assistant
coach Hansi Flick said. "We
know the Argentina team very
well, we ve played often against
them. We know what to expect."
The question is, what can
Argentina expect from Messi?
For Argentina to have a
chance, the Barcelona forward
will have to perform considerably
better than he did against the
Netherlands, when he was hardly
visible for most of the game.
The four-time world player of
the year scored four goals in the
three group games but is on a
three-game scoring drought in
the knockout stages---including
two extra time periods.
While fellow forwards Gonzalo
Higuain and Sergio Aguero are
both capable of deciding big
games themselves, and the
team s defence has looked sur-
prisingly solid, it s hard to see
Argentina winning without a big
contribution from Messi.
For Germany, the equation is
equally simple: If it can contain
Argentina s biggest threat, its
superior strength in the rest of
the field should make the dif-
ference. From goalkeeper to cen-
tre forward, Germany is a team
without a weakness.
With the exception of an
erratic performance against Alge-
ria in the second round, Ger-
many has played like a perfect
team machine, getting goals from
defenders, midfielders and for-
wards alike. (AP)
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 13, 2014
RIO DE JANEIRO---The best player in the world
goes up against the ultimate team machine, on the
world's biggest stage.
When Lionel Messi's Argentina takes on
Germany in today's World Cup final, it looks at
first glance like a meeting between brilliant
individual scoring talent and the tight discipline of
a collective unit.
Add in the rich history between these two
teams---who faced each other in two straight
World Cup finals in 1986 and 1990, winning one
each---and it's anyone's guess who will come out
on top at the Maracana Stadium.
Here is a look at how the two finalists compare:
Manuel Neuer's reputation as one of the best
goalkeepers in the world has only grown in Brazil,
where he has been one of Germany's best players
throughout the tournament. Aside from being a
first-class shot stopper, the Bayern Munich
goalkeeper showed his versatility by repeatedly
rushing out to help the defence in the second-
round win over Algeria. He then made key saves
to deny Karim Benzema an equaliser for France in
the quarter-finals, and a number of impressive
stops against Brazil.
Sergio Romero has answered most sceptics
who questioned whether he was good enough to
play for a top team in a World Cup. Romero was
only a backup for his club Monaco this past
season, but came through big in the penalty
shootout against the Netherlands with two saves
to send his team into the final. He has kept three
straight clean sheets in the knockout rounds, but
will face his greatest challenge yet against the
Germany's defence has improved vastly since
coach Joachim Loew took captain Philip Lahm out
of midfield and put him back in his favoured
position as right back after an erratic display
against Algeria in the second round. Mats
Hummels has been a steady anchor in central
defence, and Germany had little trouble
neutralising the explosive attacks of both France
Argentina's defence was seen as its main
weakness going into the World Cup, but the team
has now gone 330 minutes without conceding a
goal in the knockout rounds---including two extra
time periods. The back four, which includes
Manchester City duo Pablo Zabaleta and Martin
Demichelis, made Dutch strikers Arjen Robben
and Robin van Persie look plain ordinary.
This is Germany's biggest strength, a unit
without weakness that plays together as a well-
oiled machine. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami
Khedira shore things up defensively, while Toni
Kroos and Mesut Ozil direct most of the attacks
going forward. Germany's ruthless display against
Brazil was orchestrated by the clinical efficiency
of its midfield, and a similar display today might
just be too much for Argentina to handle as well.
The Argentines, meanwhile, are hoping that
Angel Di Maria will recover from a thigh injury to
play in the final. Di Maria's pace and ability to take
on defenders on the wing was sorely missed
against the Netherlands, when his team struggled
to find ways forward. Defensive midfielder Javier
Mascherano was one of the best players on the
pitch against the Netherlands and is the key to
keeping Germany in check.
HOW THE TEAMS COMPARE
Talent comes up
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger prepares for a training session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.
Germany faces Argentina for the 2014 soccer World Cup final today. AP PHOTO
RIO DE JANEIRO---Joachim Loew has
shaped a talented German generation into
an entertaining and successful team with
a history of near misses. Germany needs
to beat Argentina in today s World Cup
decider to finally make Loew a winner.
Loew s achievements and the innovations
he has brought into German football will
always be recognised.
But unless he wins the title his tenure will
be regarded as a partial success, even con-
sidering the astounding 7-1 win over Brazil
in the semi-finals.
Loew s job is secure --- his contract had
been extended through the 2016 European
Championship before the World Cup. But
if Germany fails to beat Argentina at the
Maracana and falls short of the title in Loew s
fourth straight tournament in charge, he
may not be able to shake off the reputation
of a coach who can t win titles.
"It s always disappointing to lose a final,
but this team has a future and I am not
worried," Loew said yesterday.
Germany lost the 2008 European Cham-
pionship final to Spain, which also beat Ger-
many two years later in the World Cup semi-
With the German public expecting nothing
less than the title at Euro 2012, Loew s team
lost to Italy in the semi-finals, with the
coach widely blamed for the defeat by picking
wrong tactics and wrong players.
Loew was Jurgen Klinsmann s assistant
for two years before taking over after the
2006 World Cup.
He was widely credited for being the mas-
termind behind the tactics of Klinsmann s
Loew needs a title to prove he is a winner
RIO DE JANEIRO---Argentina coach Ale-
jandro Sabella is looking for perfection
against Germany in today s World Cup final.
Describing the Germans as "very powerful"
physically, mentally and tactically, Sabella
said Saturday that there s no room for error.
"We must play a perfect game," Sabella
Elaborating on how to accomplish that,
the 59-year-old coach turned poetic for a
"We will give everything we ve got," Sabella
said. "Through humility, sacrifice, hard work,
simplicity. By giving instead of taking, by
forgiving instead of complaining."
The Argentines lost one of their key players
in the quarter-finals when Angel Di Maria
limped off after straining his right thigh.
Sabella said the Real Madrid winger s con-
dition was improving, but it was unclear
whether he would be ready for the final.
"Today is a key day to assess his evolution,"
Sabella said. "After practice I will have a
Argentina last played in a World Cup final
in 1990, when it lost to West Germany. Four
years earlier, Argentina had become world
champion for the second time, also in a final
against the Germans.
Sabella said there are "parallels to a certain
degree" between this World Cup and that of
1986, including the fact that the team to a
large extent depends on a star player.
Then it was Diego Maradona, now it is
Lionel Messi, who has scored four goals in
the tournament. (AP)
Sabella: 'Perfect game' required
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