A-to-Z of the 2014 World Cup Final
The 2014 World Cup final will be between Germany and Argentina on Sunday, July 13.
Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals to book their place in the final, while Argentina needed a penalty-shootout win against the Netherlands to make it this far.
There are plenty of talking points in the lead-up to the long-awaited match, so let’s run down the A-to-Z of the 2014 World Cup final.
A Is for Absentees
Argentina could have a key player not fully fit for the final, with winger Angel Di Maria not 100 percent ahead of the meeting against Germany, according to Karl Ritter of The Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports).
The Real Madrid man picked up a thigh injury in this summer’s tournament and was subsequently sidelined for the semi-final against Netherlands.
Germany defender Mats Hummels could also be ruled out of the biggest game of his career, with Oliver Todd of the Daily Mail reporting about his problem with tendonitis.
Hummels was brought off in Germany’s thrashing of Brazil and now faces a race to be fit in time for the final.
B Is for Bayern’s Influence on Germany Team
In their semi-final match against Brazil, Germany’s starting XI featured six Bayern Munich players. They greatly contributed on the pitch, too, with three goals and four assists coming from the Bundesliga side’s players against their South American opponents.
In this summer’s World Cup, Germany have scored 17 goals, with 16 of them being either scored or created from a Bayern Munich player, according to WhoScored.com. Their influence in the side is telling and potentially pivotal to their World Cup success.
C Is for Creativity
Germany’s trio of Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller has been the catalyst for their creativity this tournament. According to WhoScored.com, they’ve created 43 chances between them, averaging seven per game.
If the Eagles are to go all the way in the World Cup this time around, Kroos, Ozil and Mueller will need to be at the top of their game. They had three goals and three assists against Brazil in the previous round.
D Is for Defence
Both Argentina and Germany have boasted great defensive records in this tournament. The South Americans have conceded just three goals so far, keeping four clean sheets in the process. Germany have shipped four goals and have three clean sheets to their name.
Argentina haven’t conceded a goal in their last three games, which can be attributed to a defence featuring Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Ezequiel Garay.
Germany have Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Philipp Lahm, who have been part of a strong back line, with Per Mertesacker able to fill in at centre-back too.
E Is for Emotions
It’s been over 20 years since either side won the World Cup, so for the supporters, Sunday’s game will have even more riding on it. The weight of expectation on the Germany squad could prove to be overwhelming as their 7-1 win against Brazil masks their fragility shown in the previous rounds.
Argentina have the climate on their side and captain Lionel Messi spearheading the attack. That puts a lot of pressure on their shoulders, too, with the four-time Ballon d'Or winner expected to deliver on the grand stage.
But Sunday’s final promises to have emotions riding high. Such is the desperation for both nations to win the World Cup after a long wait for glory.
F Is for Favourites
According to a report by Sky Sports, Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella has suggested that Germany are the favourites to win the final due to them having an extra day’s rest:
Some of our players are sore, beaten, tired - the results of a war, so to speak. We have a final to play, with one day less to prepare and against a team like Germany. ... The match is extremely difficult and I repeat the fact they haven't played extra time and we've played two, and played one day after Germany.
Germany is always a very difficult hurdle to overcome.
We'll see if it's a minor issue, the fact we played after and the Germany game was decided in the first 45 minutes, so they could ease off in the second half, whereas we had to spend all the effort, and every last drop of sweat to reach the World Cup final.
G Is for Goals
Following the 7-1 win against Brazil in the semis, Germany are now unsurprisingly the top scorers in the tournament. The Eagles have 17 goals from their six World Cup games so far.
Argentina, however, haven’t been as prolific. Sabella’s side have just eight goals this tournament, averaging only 1.33 goals per game. Considering they have Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi, it’s a surprise they struggled to ripple the back of the net more frequently.
H Is for History
Germany are second in the all-time world football rankings, as they’ve boasted consistently high finishes in the tournament. No nation has played more World Cup games (99), and only Brazil (210) have scored more goals than Germany (206).
Argentina have made four World Cup finals, but the last one they reached was back in 1990. Since then, the furthest they’d been prior to this summer was the quarter-finals.
I Is for Irony
The two nations’ last World Cup triumphs came against each other in 1986 and 1990, with Argentina 3-2 victors in 1986 against West Germany, who got their revenge four years later, winning 1-0.
Germany and Argentina are also among the top four for the most final appearances in the tournament.
J Is for Journey
Both sides have had underwhelming journeys to the final, but Germany especially haven’t had it all their own way.
They started their World Cup campaign with a 4-0 win against Portugal, but they struggled against Ghana and were perhaps lucky to come away with a 2-2 draw for their efforts. Wins of 1-0 and 2-1 scorelines followed against the USA and Algeria, respectively, but again, they were far from convincing.
Joachim Low’s side then beat France in the quarter-finals 1-0 and memorably ran riot against Brazil in the semis to get to the final.
Argentina’s journey started with a 2-1 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina. They followed it up with an unconvincing 1-0 win against Iran and then made it maximum points from their group with a 3-2 win over Nigeria.
In the latter stages, the South American side had back-to-back 1-0 wins against Switzerland and Belgium, while reaching the final via penalty shootout against the Netherlands in the semis.
K Is for Klose
Germany striker Miroslav Klose became the all-time leader in World Cup goalscoring with his tap-in against Brazil in the semi-final.
The veteran drew criticism for his selection in the team over the likes of Mario Gomez, Stefan Kiessling and Pierre-Michel Lasogga, but his 33 percent conversion rate has thrown the argument out the window.
Klose has two goals from four games this tournament and now stands alone atop the all-time World Cup goalscorers list with 16 to his name.
L Is for Losers
Despite being two of the most successful nations in the World Cup, Germany and Argentina have been perennial losers in the latter stages.
The European giants have lost a staggering four finals in their history, while Argentina have lost twice.
Germany have fallen short of the final in nine World Cups, but Argentina have fared one worse, with 10 early exits.
M Is for Messi and Mueller
Argentina and Germany both have a player on whom they’ve relied heavily in this World Cup, and their talents in attack could be the difference between winning the tournament or getting a runners-up medal.
Thomas Mueller has accumulated five goals and three assists in the tournament for Germany. Lionel Messi has scored four and tallied one assist for Argentina.
Both players have contributed the most goals to their countries and will be the notable danger men in the match previews.
N Is for Neuer
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been a standout player between the sticks for the World Cup finalists. The 28-year-old has three clean sheets and a 0.67 goals-conceded-per-game average for the tournament.
He’s been called the best goalkeeper in the world by former Germany shot-stopper Oliver Kahn as a result of his dominant showings, according to a report on the official FIFA website.
O Is for Opinions
There have been many blunt opinions made between the two finalists. Sky Sports columnist Paul Merson was critical of Germany ahead of their quarter-final match against France, suggesting they may have been over-billed.
He also said of Argentina that they should win the tournament. The likes of Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria were cited as pivotal players, albeit yet to showcase their utmost best form.
P Is for Possession
Germany built up a reputation in the 2010 World Cup for being a counter-attacking side, but four years later they are much more possession-based, as reported by Michael Cox of The Guardian.
This summer, Joachim Low’s side have averaged 59.4 percent possession per game, second only to Spain. They also boast the third-best passing accuracy (86.4 percent).
Q Is for Quit Scare
Guillem Balague wrote in The Telegraph how Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella dealt with Lionel Messi threatening to quit international football in 2011 due to the abuse he was receiving from Argentina supporters.
With the Barcelona man having spent his entire professional career in Spain, Argentina fans wouldn’t allow themselves to be enamoured with him as he’s deemed more Spanish than South American to many.
But Sabella sought advice from Messi’s former club manager, Pep Guardiola, and made the 27-year-old captain to convince him to stay.
R Is for Romero
Argentina have goalkeeper Sergio Romero to thank for beating the Netherlands in the semi-finals, with the 27-year-old having saved two penalties in the shootout.
According to Transfermarkt, Romero has amassed an impressive 23 clean sheets in under 50 caps for the national team, and considering he’s currently contracted to Sampdoria, he could well get himself a big-money move this summer.
S Is for Substitutions
There could be some very important substitutions in the World Cup final. Andre Schurrle has scored three goals from five appearances off the bench for Germany so far.
For Argentina, they could have Sergio Aguero available from the bench if they’re in need of a goal, while Rodrigo Palacio, who has made four substitute appearances, is another attacking option. He scored 17 league goals last season.
T Is for Tactics
Germany are expected to line up with a 4-3-3 formation: Manuel Neuer; Benedikt Howedes, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng; Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos; Mesut Ozil, Miroslav Klose and Thomas Mueller (expected starting XI).
They will play a cautious, possession game, content to probe for long periods rather than risk being opened up by playing too attacking.
Argentina might play a similar tactic, with manager Alejandro Sabella likely to plump for a three-man central midfield in the final to risk conceding too much possession. Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago, Lucas Biglia and Enzo Perez could fight it out for the three midfield places.
Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi could be the attack if Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero aren’t fit to start.
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero will likely have Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo and Martin Demichelis in front of him for the final.
U Is for Unsung Hero
Javier Mascherano hasn’t received the praise he deserves in this tournament.
The Barcelona defender has made 28 tackles in the World Cup so far, more than any other player. He also boasts a 90.4 percent pass completion rate (per WhoScored) from a 2014 tournament-leading 552 passes.
V Is for Venue
The Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro is where the 2014 World Cup final will be held.
The capacity is over 78,000, per The Stadium Guide, and it’s owned by the Rio state government. It was built in 1948 and has gone on to host World Cup games in the 1950s and clubs games between Brazilian league sides.
With its modern-day revamp, it will now be used for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
W Is for Weaknesses
Germany’s defence, while strong on paper, hasn’t been the most resilient this year. The back line surrendered a 4-0 lead to Sweden in a World Cup qualifier and have had their scares in the World Cup, too.
Argentina have struggled to score against sides who sit deep, and only Lionel Messi has scored more than one goal for the side this summer.
X Is for X-Factor
Germany have a collective feel to the team, where they play as one on the pitch because so many have similar traits and a preferred style. But as the game will likely be a cagey affair, it could be won on individual brilliance, which some Argentinian players possess in abundance.
The fitness of Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria still hangs in the balance, but Lionel Messi is a player who certainly has the X-factor to win the final on his own. His four World Cup goals have showcased that he can play poorly but score superb efforts in the blink of an eye.
Y Is for Youth Versus Experience
Conversely, Argentina have eight players who are aged 30 or over, while Germany only have three.
Z Is for Zonal
Argentina will have a collective plan to afford possession to Germany, but they’ll press in the right areas to get the ball back. They will look to mark certain zones on the pitch, rather than chase players such as Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil, which would see them risk being pulled out of position.
Germany will also be covering zonally against Argentina, as the South American forwards won’t stay in fixed positions on the pitch. Messi can drop deep and play out wide, while Higuain will attempt to separate the central defenders, so it’s much wiser for Germany to stay with a zonal approach so defenders aren’t leaving gaps in the side by following opposing attackers.