By, Kyle Gibson
So, it’s all down to this. The efficient masters Germany take on the Argentina team that revolves around Lionel Messi. Will Germany’s players finally be rewarded after losing the final in 2002 and finishing 3rd in 2006 and 2010? Will Argentina return to the glory it last visited when Maradona ruled the world? I don’t have a prediction, but here’s a preview I wrote earlier this week for Marshall University’s student newspaper, The Parthenon.
We will know the answer to a month-long question Sunday, a question that was first asked nearly four years ago exactly.
After 90, or maybe even 120 minutes Sunday, we will know soccer’s new World Champion.
The two teams that will face off for the FIFA World Cup trophy Sunday are no strangers to World Cup glory.
Germany, with three titles, has long been considered one of Europe’s powerhouse teams.
Argentina, with two trophies, has a rich World Cup history in its own right, winning 2 of 3 tournaments from 1978-1986.
The game Sunday has already been dubbed “Messi versus the Machine.”
Lionel Messi, the diminutive Argentine wizard, is a once in a lifetime talent making his first World Cup Final appearance.
Messi’s play in World Cups had been criticized until this year.
Messi has silenced his doubters with four goals and one assist in 2014.
Even though he has failed to score in his last three games, Messi assisted on Angel DiMaria’s last minute, extra-time goal against Switzerland in the Round of 16 and worked to set up Gonzalo Higuain’s goal against Belgium in the Quarterfinals.
Messi is judged harshly on the world stage, but his harshest criticism comes from his native Argentina.
To Argentina, there will never be another like Diego Maradona, who almost single-handedly won the 1986 tournament for the Argentines. Maradona was known for his creative prowess and controversy, the dichotomy of which was put on display in the 1986 Quarterfinals against England, where he scored one goal from a handball, known as the “Hand of God” goal.
Maradona’s second goal in that game came from a dizzying solo run from beyond half-field and is often regarded as the greatest World Cup goal ever.
That dazzling play and legendary personality is what Messi is up against in Argentina.
Germany is often referred to as a “machine” because of the efficiency of the system it plays.
This 2014 team resembles classic World Cup winning teams of old, but it isn’t quite as ruthless or violent.
Still, it’s as if every player could run and perform for 180 minutes straight and not be tired.
The Germans are known for clinical goal scoring, in which two players on the team specialize.
Miroslav Klose now owns the all-time record for World Cup goals, surpassing Ronaldo of Brazil with 16.
That number may only stand until the next World Cup, where teammate Thomas Muller, already with 10 World Cup goals at age 24, could easily surpass Klose.
The German midfield is surgical as well, with Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who excel at long-range shots, precision passing and stabilizing organization, respectively.
Captain Philipp Lahm had been playing in the midfield, but Coach Jogi Low moved him back to anchor the defensive line.
Low, who led Germany to a third place finish in 2010, is under extreme amounts of pressure as well from his home country.
In a nation as soccer crazy as Germany, it can often feel as if there are 81 million would be coaches, a phenomenon most American football coaches know all too well.
Germany made it to the Final by achieving one of the most shocking victories of all-time, beating host Brazil 7-1, Brazil’s largest ever defeat.
The Brazilians were without Captain Thiago Silva and World Cup star Neymar, but there’s no denying the Germans were the better team throughout the entire tournament.
It was a tougher route for Argentina, which had to outlast the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties.
If it wasn’t for the heroics of Javier Mascherano and a game saving tackle on Arjen Robben, the Dutch could have been facing Germany and made it to consecutive World Cup Finals.
I suppose that is the plight of the Dutch, the quadrennial bridesmaids.
As for the Final and how it will play out, we have recent World Cup knockout round match-ups to examine.
At World Cup 2006 in Germany and World Cup 2010 in South Africa, Argentina and Germany faced off in the Quarterfinals.
Germany won both matches, 4-2 on penalties in 2006 and 4-0 in regulation in 2010.
Germany then went on to place third in both 2006 and 2010, unable to make it past the Semifinals.
For the Germans in 2014, the team surpassed its goal of no longer settling for consolation games at World Cups.
For 90 minutes or more Sunday, the team must prevent Argentina’s goal of finally making it past the Germans.