So, it all boils down to this. 1 month 63 games later, the last two remain standing. Its Germany vs Argentina. I can honestly say that for the first time, in a
very long time, the two best teams have ended up in the final. 7 out of the 10 players nominated for the Golden Boot award will be playing tonight. Here’s my zone-to-zone analysis:
Manuel Neuer has become something of an enigma for Germany. In a tournament where goalkeeping brilliance has shone, Neuer has been top of the pile. With 6 matches played, he’s conceded 4 goals so far, and kept 3 clean sheets. Germany haven’t taken any of their games to penalties, but had they, Neuer is known to be a penalty specialists (aren’t all German goalies???). If Argentina manage to find a way to penetrate that German defense, they still have Neuer to contend with.
Argentina will be hoping it wont go to penalties
Sergio Romero hadn’t had a big challenge until the penalty shootout against the Netherlands, where he stepped up and was counted as one of the top goalies this World Cup. This tournament, only conceded 3 goals and kept three clean sheets. He proved to be a good shot stopper and was the semi final hero saving Vlaar and Sneijder’s shots. Fortunately for Romero, like Neuer, he’s got a rock solid defense to back him up.
The Better: Germany (Neuer)
Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng have kept a tidy back line for Germany. But its been Philip Lahm who has been outstanding at Right Back (in fact, he just made the Brazilians look silly). Howedes at left back rounds up the formidable Mansschaft defense.
Philip Lahm has been strong at right back, but there have been jokes that he will play left back to mark Lionel Messi.
Like mentioned before, Argentina have proved themselves defensively. The young-un Left back Rojo can handle the best strikers while on the right, we will see Zabaleta, who can play the ball forward. The combination of Demichelis and Garay has been a good one. These four, slightly shaky at the start of the tournament have grown into a defense to be reckoned with.
The better: Argentina (only just, and I say this because they also have the added support of Javier Mascherano, who for me, functions as both a midfielder and a Full Back at times)
Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos make up the core of the midfield. (I have purposefully left out Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil). Khedira was one of the best players on the pitch against Brazil. The experience Bastian Schweinsteiger brings to this young side’s midfield is monumental, while Toni Kroos has been the best attacking midfielder this tournament for me.
Javier Mascherano has been the most outstanding defensive midfielder this world cup for me, for sure. His importance on the Argentina team cannot be stated enough, not just as a player, but as a leader. Supporting him, he’s got Biglia and Di Maria (if fit) who both can boss the midfield around just as much as he does. Some have applauded Angel di Maria this tournament, but I felt he hasn’t reached the level we expected him to be at this World Cup, if Argentina wants to win this, he is going to have to show more creativity and set up his attackers a lot better than he has already.
Javier Mascherano in action vs the Netherlands via @Squawka)
The better: Germany
The biggest problem for Germany going into this World Cup was the lack of out and out strikers. But we’ve seen them sweep all before them so far, and thats because their midfield has the dynamic to shift into attack when needed. So that’s exactly what Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller have been doing. Muller is gunning for the Golden Boot , with 5 goals in total this World Cup. Only James Rodriguez stands ahead of him with 6, and he can’t score anymore goals, so its all Muller’s for the taking. Meanwhile, veteran Miroslav Klose (who is the leading goal scorer in world cups in general with 16 goals) will be the experience in the attack. Ozil hasn’t brought his best to this World Cup and relied more on his colleagues to do the goal scoring.
Lionel Messi. My favourite player, and boy, we know when he finds a way, he can turn a game on its head. But like we saw in the semi’s, it is possible to stifle him. And the German’s are known to do their homework. His real genius will show if he manages to find a way around Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. In support he has Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio “Kun” Aguero. Aguero came on against the Netherlands after being injured for a good few games, but actually was ineffective for me. Higuain, bless him, scored his first goal for Argentina in 6 games, against Belgium in the quarter finals. He took some time to get into his stride, but he looks to be peaking. My gut feeling is that since Messi will be the target for most of the defense, Higuain will have to come good for Argentina tonight. And lets not forget, di Maria is known to wander from left winger to up front at times.
The Better: Argentina (Because of Lionel Messi, and the lack on depth in the German attack)
My two cents:
Its going to be a tight one. Whoever wins this game will be a deserving champions. My head says it will be Germany, they are the favourites, they have the tactical genius Low coaching them. But my heart says it will be Argentina. Some part of me feels that the stars have finally aligned and Messi will prove himself in Los Albiceleste colours. But this is football, and since when has anything ever made sense?