The 2014 World Cup final doesn't include host Brazil, defending champion Spain or the Netherlands. In fact, the two World Cup finalists haven't won a championship for a respective 24 and 28 years -- and last won it all when playing each other. But on July 13, either Argentina will win its third title and first since 1986, or Germany will take its fourth crown and first since 1990.
The 1986 and 1990 World Cup final were the last ones to pit Germany and Argentina together, back when there was a West Germany. Since its unification, the Germans had only made one final in 2002, which was ironically a loss to Brazil. Now thanks to an historic 7-1 thumping of Brazil in the semifinals, Germany has suddenly become the team to beat.
The individual to beat at this tournament has always been Lionel Messi, although Argentina hasn't needed him to score in the knockout stages. But with a big goal or key role in a victorious final, Messi will reach a Diego Maradona level of worship in Argentina. As such, this match was dubbed as one between "Messi and the machine" since the moment the final pairing was settled.
While Germany did use machine like precision and defense to dismantle Brazil, it dismantled a severely shorthanded team. But in this World Cup final, the Germans face an opponent that has a healthy superstar and hasn't given up a goal in the knockout stages. Argentina might not have gotten anything from Messi in recent matches, but it has cancelled out the opposition's stars, which puts pressure on Germany's Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Miroslav Klose to do better.
Will the Germans hit a wall against a healthy opponent that's waited longer for this day than they have? Or will one team cancel out one superstar carrying an entire country and legacy on his shoulders? Either way, an entire generation of German and Argentinian soccer will be defined by this one afternoon.
The nation of Brazil is the only real loser here, as it watches arch-rival Argentina try to win the World Cup on Brazilian soil against the Germany team that slaughtered the hosts. Despite that embarrassing semifinal win, however, Germany may well be Brazil's favorite team today by comparison.
Coverage of the World Cup final begins at 1 p.m. est on ABC, before kick off at 3 p.m.