Argentina and Germany face off in the World Cup final tonight at the Maracana, in what promises to be a fitting climax to a wonderful tournament.

Widely regarded as one of the most exciting competitions of the last 30 years, the 2014 World Cup reaches its conclusion tonight with the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, facing off against the best team, Germany.

Germany favourites

The Germans go into the match as favourites off the back of their remarkable, unbelievable 7-1 humiliation of Brazil in the semi-finals. Argentina, by contrast, squeaked past the Netherlands on penalties.

Despite their attacking riches, they've been criticised for an over reliance on Messi and a lack of creative imagination going forward. Their defence, written off before the tournament as the team's weak point, has so far stood up to every test.

Tonight's game will be the third final contested between the two footballing powerhouses, with the current series tied at one apiece. Germany took revenge for Argentina's victory in the 1986 final with a win of their own in Italy four years later.

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Team news

Having demolished Brazil so comprehensively, Germany coach Joachim Low is keeping things consistent, which sees Philipp Lahm remain at right-back.

The World Cup's record all-time leading goalscorer, Miroslav Klose, keeps his place up front, with Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller behind.

They strolled through a tough group unbeaten, before edging out Algeria in extra time and France by a single goal. They've overcome a much more difficult route to the final than their opponents, and the experience of past tournaments should stand this relatively young side in good stead.

Argentina fitness worries?

As for Argentina, a question mark hung over the fitness of Angel Di Maria before the match after he limped out of training earlier this week. He missed the semi-final against the Dutch and Enzo Perez replaced him capably. Di Maria is out once again, and Perez replaces him for the second time.

The back-line remains unchanged, while Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano keep their places in the middle. Leo Messi was outstanding in the group stages, but quiet since - there are concerns over possible fatigue in the wake of his subdued display against the Netherlands.

The South Americans came through an easier group with a little trouble, requiring Messi's magic against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran before a 3-2 win over Nigeria.

But the knock-out rounds have been an attritional struggle. They battled to 1-0 victories over Switzerland and Belgium, and played out a disappointing 0-0 draw to the Dutch, taking the win on penalties.

Team sheet

Germany

Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Höwedes; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Müller, Kroos, Özil; Klose

Argentina

Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi (c), Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, Lavezzi

Predictions?

It's hardly the most impressive tournament CV, but Argentina are in the final and deserve to be there. And in Messi, they have game's most talented player.

Expect a Germany win, but with Messi in the lineup, it's perhaps more appropriate to expect the unexpected.

Topics:
Germany Football
World Cup
Argentina Football
Football