We're here - the final of football’s showpiece event takes place today and it’s time to take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the two finalists who’ll be battling it out in the Maracana tonight.
The Germans have a distinct advantage in this category. That’s no disrespect to Argentine number one, Sergio Romero but in Manuel Neuer, Germany have arguably got the best keeper in the world. His shot-stopping is second to none but where the giant German really comes in to his own is in the way he controls his box and covers his defence, hence the title of ‘sweeper keeper’.
Romero has had a decent tournament considering his lack of match time at Monaco this season and it was his saves in the shootout victory over the Netherlands that got them to the final but it is clear he is not at the same level as his counterpart.
Germany – 9
Argentina – 7
Before this World Cup began we were told by endless pundits and coaches alike that Argentina would be weak at the back, relying on the magic of their attacking quartet to cover up for the defensive deficiencies. Yet marshalled by the impressive Garay and covered by midfield general, Javier Mascherano, they have proved almost impossible to break down, especially in the knockout stage; they are yet to concede after qualifying from their group.
The Germans on the other hand have always been considered solid defensively but at times they have looked decidedly shaky. Their high defensive line, coupled with central defenders Boateng and Howedes playing in the full back positions could be tested by the Argentinians.
It should be noted that in Mats Hummels they have one of the best defenders in the competition and they look much better when Captain Philipp Lahm is at full back as he was in the semi-final annihilation of hosts, Brazil and as he should be in the final. It all depends which defence turns up.
In the midfield battle the Germans surely have an advantage. They have real quality in every position, with midfield generals Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira controlling the game from deep and allowing their attacking trio of Ozil, Kroos and Muller to wreak havoc as we saw to devastating effect against Brazil. The only thing missing is genuine pace but their footballing ability more than makes up for it.
Argentina on the other hand don’t really seem to have a midfield. Javier Mascherano has been superb and committed as ever. However, the rest of the midfield has looked ponderous, particularly early on in the competition; something which cost Fernando Gago his position in the team. His replacement Enzo Perez has been decent and brings good energy to the team but is certainly not at the level of Schweinsteiger et al.
Despite not playing with a recognized for parts of the 2014 World Cup, Germany have still found a way to score goals, as they did with ease against Brazil. Thomas Muller is a fantastic player and despite not being an out and out striker he knows how to find the back of the net; proved by the fact that he is still in the running for a second consecutive golden boot.
Germany can also call upon the World Cup's all-time leading scorer, Miroslav Klose. In an era devoted to the number 10 Klose is an out and out poacher capable of being at the right place at the right time for a crucial chance; something which could prove vital in what is likely to be a tight match.
On paper Argentina have the most potent attack in this World Cup, with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Ganzalo Higuain all capable of magic. However, none of them have really stepped up to the mark with Aguero never looking fit and Higuain only breaking his World Cup duck in the quarter-final.
Messi has also been curiously quiet. Despite single-handedly dragging them out of their group he has been seriously subdued since then. In the semi-final he was marked out of the game by the Dutch, not managing to touch the ball in the opposition’s box once during the entire 120 minutes. Despite all of this the Barcelona man is still one of the two best players in the world and capable of winning any match by himself; Argentina just need to hope that he chooses to do it in the most important match of them all.
It will no doubt be a tight affair and both teams have the right to stake a claim to being favourites. Germany have the more rounded team but Argentina have Messi and the added incentive of winning the World Cup in the backyard of their biggest rivals.
However I feel that Germany have too much in their locker for an Argentinian team who have scrapped their way to the final.