World Cup 2014 final preview: Germany v Argentina
World Cup 2014 preview: Barrie White previews Sunday's showdown between Germany and Argentina
For about a month in 2010, my excitement levels for the World Cup was similar to that a Whovian gets when waiting for a first glimpse at a new Timelord, or when a Star Wars fan eagerly awaits the first trailer for a new adventure from far, far away and a very long time ago.
OK, I am also the other people mentioned there.
But unlike the arrival of the new Doctor, and what promises to be a superb set of new films, that World Cup bombed horrendously, culminating in an awful final, remembered only by a little piece of Spanish magic in the midst of John Heitinga’s red card and Nigel de Jong’s kung-fu kick.
As the eyes of the world turn to Rio on Sunday, there is no way the awful 120 minutes of four years ago can be repeated as Germany and Argentina Part III kicks off.
Frankly, no. And a good thing, too. Argentina, right now, are on their last legs, and in one case, it is arguably OK to say that their a**e has gone too. Poor Javier Mascherano.
But one aspect of their play, from the excellent Sid Lowe (from memory), is having Lionel Messi in their starting XI means other teams will not attack them as strongly as they could do. The little man – on the verge of replicating Diego Maradona’s feat of single-handedly winning the cup for Argentina – can turn deep defending into swift attack in the matter seconds, provided he has the willing runners too.
But, with Angel Di Maria missing, have they got that? I don’t know. It’s not that type of preview. However, it is a final and there is plenty of opportunity for a hero to arise.
The likely candidate is Messi. The only candidate is Messi. He is the only Argentine player who wants to play football and, as much as this writer is frustrated by defending being called ‘anti-football’, a game as big as the World Cup cannot be decided by the sort of defending a League One side would be happy with in order to secure a lucrative replay in the FA Cup.
Messi will have the chance to rubber stamp his brilliant if he beats Germany. He. Not if Argentina do, but he, because Joachim Low’s men will not be scared of any of the South American’s other ten.
If the Barcelona man does drag the Argentines through to their third World Cup, then he deserves to be viewed as the greatest of the last 20 years, because this is a poor side.
However, Germany’s attacking talent is leaving everyone climbing over one another to make their compliment heard loudest.
With Thomas Muller looking to seal a second consecutive Golden Boot, Germany can hurt Argentina badly. That could be one way to restore Brazil’s pride – putting eight past their hated rivals.
Are the Germans becoming over-confident? No. But deep down they, and the rest of the world know, this final can be one of the most one-sided ever seen.
Unless Manuel Neuer’s confidence in being the supreme sweeper-keeper means he brings down an Argentine forward and is sent off.
Unless Mats Hummels’ knee goes in the first 10 minutes of the final, meaning Arsenal’s BFG Per Mertesacker is forced on and his lack of pace is hugely exposed by aforementioned willing runners.
Unless the outstanding Mascherano is able to deny Real Madrid-bound Toni Kroos time on ball, while Manchester City’s famous joke-to-hero story of Martin Demichelis puts the outstanding Muller out of action.
Unless Low gets his tactics wrong and the Germans fall one behind, and Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle is left on the bench too long as Klose is given more time than he deserves to grab a fairy-tale goal.
Unless the so-far excellent combination of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira get their understanding wrong and neither of them take responsibility for depriving Messi of the ball.
Unless the Pope has a word and literally everything is against Germany.
The last one might happen but, to be flippant, only as likely as the others. They serve to reaffirm that Germany hold all the cards heading into the final, and they will have themselves to beat.
Unless Messi wants it, obviously.