Sunday, two of the more storied World Cup countries on the globe will dispute the final of the 2014 tournament in Rio de Janeiro’s famed Maracana stadium, and Brazil will not be one of them. Germany the 1954, 1974 and 1990 Champions will meet the 1978 and 1986 champions Argentina.
The teams have met in back-to-back finals with Argentina beating Germany 3-2 in Mexico in 1986 and Germany returning the favor, winning 1-0 in 1990 in Italy. If Argentina wins, they will be the second neighbor from the River Plate region that has won the cup in Brazil. If Germany wins, they will be the first European team to win in the Americas.
This is the 20th World Cup and South Americans have won nine of them (Brazil 5, Uruguay and Argentina 2 each) while Europeans have won ten (Italy 4, Germany 3, Spain, England, France 1 each). So, either the continental score will even out again or the Europeans will take a two cup advantage in the classic global competition.
By many indicators Argentina has the best defensive team in the cup (allowing just 3 goals) while Germany, after its semifinals explosion, is the highest scoring team (scoring 17 goals). In terms of playing, Germany has won all of its games convincingly except for one draw, while Argentina has won all of its games by a one-goal margin, save its semifinal 0-0 draw followed by a win via a penalty shootout. Argentina has never fallen behind in a match this cup, Germany has always pulled ahead in all of its games.
Argentina is playing with a once-in-a-generation superstar who is vying to become one of the greatest players of all time. Germany is playing with a once-in-a-generation super-team that might dominate the sport for years to come given the youth of so many of their players. Lionel Messi will lay claim to a place in the Pantheon of the sport with a win. With a win, Germany will have four trophies and will position itself to contest the mantle of most cup wins with co-four-time champion Italy and five-time champion Brazil.
On paper the match seems to pitch the best all-around team in the tournament against the one who is peaking at the right time and whose ace in the hole, Lionel Messi, has been the change maker in most of its games. The Argentines played later than the Germans and had to play extra time and shoot penalties, so they will be the less fresh team. Germany not only did not play the added time, but from about the 30th minute of their semifinals win they were basically on cruise control.
The question is will the fresh and dominant Germans impose themselves on the strong and peaking Argentines or will Messi magic turn all other logic aside and rule the day? Most pundits and fans around the globe believe it will be a close match with the Europeans pulling out a one-goal victory. I will say that the match will only be close if Argentina wins as they will concede at least one goal, but they will only win with a huge dose of Messi magic. But if Germany wins it will be a convincing win that includes Thomas Muller becoming the top scorer.
My guess is Germany 3, Argentina 1, with the deciding two goals scored in the second half, in another classic World Cup final.