World Cup Final Preview: Who Can Achieve the Predictable
The World Cup Final matchup is, for the third time in history, Germany v. Argentina. With a very ‘predictable’ knockout stages (where the better team on paper won every match), it is fitting to conclude the tournament with the most common finalist pairing.
However, the winners are all that is predictable in this World Cup: we have our expectations and stereotypes completed turned on its head from the early onset of the tournament. We had a long-ball playing Spanish team employing a target striker; an England squad that stopped defending (but had the courtesy to maintain their incompetence going forward); and a Brazilian side that focused primarily on kicking the other team off the park.
The Germans and the Argentinians are no different. Die Mannschaft is always portrayed as a well-oiled machine: professional, determined, if slightly lacking in technicality; whereas the Albicelestes was meant to be an army of free-flowing attackers playing with an ‘I-will-score-more-than-you’ attitude. Yet, the two teams we have in this final has almost assumed the conventional image of their counterpart.
From the opening 4-0 win against Portugal to the 7-1 against Brazil, the Germans have shown that, on a good day when they were allowed space to run, they really can score as many as they want. Meanwhile, Argentina let their defensive organisation and determination shine as they advanced to the final without conceding in the knockout stages.
Their perceived weakness is comically out of character. The German defence looked suspect as times and survived the scares against Ghana and Algeria; whereas Argentina, blessed with all their amazing attackers, only managed 2 goals in 330 minutes of knockout games.
Much of this final with be played along the same lines: the Germans will attempt to dominate possession as they have done all tournament, but especially to ensure that they are allowed to run- if they were forced to slow down like they were against France, they would be easier to contain. Meanwhile, Argentina will hope that their strong defence hold the German attacks, while retaliate with counter-attacks.
(Mascherano: More Important than Messi?)
With that sort of goalscoring power, the Germans will undoubtedly be favourites. So what would the Argentinians do? I suspect Mascherano would be key here. He will have to be at his best in order to stop the Germans from accelerating. The midfield battle will be interesting and there’s a good chance for a lot of petty fouls to occur. The Germans should have most of the ball, and for Argentina to win the likes of Messi, Di Maria and Aguero have to be more efficient than their German counterparts.
Germany would also have to consider tweaking their tactics, because of a certain man named Lionel Messi. They notoriously high defensive lines with goalkeeper Neuer also playing sweeper has worked well so far; but will they risk it against Argentina on the break? Do they have to man-mark Messi, a feat possible (see Netherlands game) but at the expense of losing creativity and fluidity in midfield? I suspect that while Germany will not make big adjustments, against these Argentinian players and the game being a final would mean that they naturally take a more cautious approach. This would mean fewer chances and more reliance on set-pieces and the poacher that is Klose.
The two teams have approached the finals so far with a trend-bucking set of ideals and tactics. Yet, I believe for either team to claim the ultimate prize, they will need to return to their more established characters in some way. The Germans will again need to be flawless in organisation; the Argentinians need their magical touch in attack.
My predictions at the World Cup has been terrible (I picked Spain to win and England/Japan to qualify), but slightly improved by picking the correct semi-winners. Both heart and brain thinks the Germans will edge this, let’s hope I didn’t jinx them!