The road to the World Cup is much longer than a month of tournament play — it’s the culmination of a career.
Germany and Argentina will face off in the final game 1 p.m. Sunday, July 13, while the third-place game will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12.
The 1986 finals rematch pits the aggressively technical Germans against the agile and, at times, flashy Argentinians.
Both teams have endured a long journey, defeating difficult teams to reach this game. As their odyssey nears its conclusion, here’s a look at what each team has done during the Cup.
This is the eighth World Cup Finals appearance for Germany. Of the eight games, they won three, ranking them third internationally for World Cups. Only Italy (4) and Brazil (5) have more.
The magic of Germany’s run in this year’s tournament is no surprise, despite entering in the dreaded “Group of Death,” alongside USA, Portugal and Ghana. They haven’t lost, only coming to a draw with Ghana in a thrilling 2-2 match early on.
In six games, the Germans have racked up 17 goals with a +13 goal difference. Their power-hungry offense scored 14 open play goals versus their three set piece goals. As demonstrated in their domination against Brazil, the Germans play their best when they have room to move and time to stitch through a defense.
Granted, Brazil didn’t bring their a-game (or b, for that matter) and the loss of Neymar and Thiago Silva was surely recognized. But, the choreographed, unselfish play of the Germans was historic. Even Brazilian fans couldn’t help but cheer at the end of the 7-1 game.
The fans found themselves in a position they’re not used to — losing. In fact, they haven’t lost a competitive home game on Brazilian soil since 1975 – until they faced the Germans in the semi-finals.
On top of ending a 63 home game-win streak, German forward, Miroslav Klose, stole the World Cup Goal Scoring Record from former Brazilian star Ronaldo. In the 23rd minute, Klose scored off his own rebound after receiving a short pass from Thomas Müller at the penalty mark, giving him 16 goals in 23 World Cup appearances.
Klose’s performance in the Cup is impressive, but leading the offense for the Germans is the young midfielder Müller. He debuted in the tournament with a hat trick against Portugal, and since then Müller’s been steamrolling over opponents, scoring the tournament’s second-most with five goals (James Rodríguez of Colombia leads with six goals).
The Germans will be looking to continue their onslaught of goals they piled on in the semi-finals, as they follow their leaders, Klose and Müller, onto the pitch for the finals.
This is Argentina’s fifth World Cup appearance, and in the past they’ve won two titles.
Similar to the 1986 World Cup, when Argentina defeated West Germany 3-2, Argentina possesses the difference-maker. In 1986 Diego Maradona led his team to a Cup with five goals.
Today, that difference-maker is Lionel Messi, dubbed Messidona after the great Maradona he models his play after.
On the field his Maradona-like moves are evident. He dances around players, creates space and scores — a lot.
Each game, two or three players can be seen crowded around him. For the most part it doesn’t matter. But, there lies the issue. Argentina and Messi are synonymous, and when one does poorly, so does the other.
In the tournament, Argentina has scored eight goals (seven open play goals and one set piece goal). Messi owns half of those goals.
The point is, Messi is good, but without help from forward Gonzalo Higuaín, Argentina’s chances look slim. He scored one goal in the entire tournament, which came against Belgium. In 42 international games, Higuaín’s put 21 goals into the back of the net.
While Germany trounced on the tournament’s favorite, Argentina battled the Netherlands in a nitty-gritty dual to penalties where Argentina won 4-2. Argentina registered five shots on target with two near misses from Messi and Higuaín. Messi’s free kick opportunity in the 20th minute tested keeper Jasper Cillessen, but just barely.
Argentina lacks efficiency, providing 95 scoring opportunities while capitalizing on only eight of those chances. The Germans have 87 scoring opportunities, which they’ve scored on 17 of those attempts. Again, these numbers are skewed by their 7-1 victory over Brazil, but 17 total goals to lead all teams is still impressive.
Like their German counterparts, the Argentinians have yet to lose, and they’ll be looking to continue that trend once kick-off starts on Sunday, July 13.
Collegian Managing Editor Lawrence Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.