Germany can end Argentina’s FIFA World Cup campaign for a third time in a row when they meet in Sunday’s final at the iconic Maracana. However, they will need to be aware that the only honour Messi hasn’t achieved is a World Cup medal and he will almost pull out all stops to inspire Argentina to world championship.
Argentina may have beaten them 3-2 in a classic 1986 final in Mexico but since then Germany have had the wood over the South American side.
They initially exacted revenge in the 1990 World Cup final, defeating a nine-man Argentina 1-0, and have gone on to add victories against them in the quarterfinals of both the 2006 and 2010 showpiece.
But while Germany were completely emphatic in their 4-0 win against Argentina in Cape Town four years ago, they could only end the tournament in third, just like they did in their own country in 2006.
And their 2002 final defeat to Brazil means Joachim Low’s side will be desperate to end their record of near-misses when they take to the pitch at the famous Rio de Janeiro stadium.
Three-time winners Germany will enter the showpiece full of confidence, though, after an outstanding 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in Tuesday’s semi-final.
This World Cup is widely regarded as one of the best ever and its undoubted highlight – at least for now – is Germany’s Estadio Mineirao masterclass that saw them score five goals in the first 30 minutes.
No side has scored more than Germany’s 17 goals at the tournament and forwards Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose have starred again on the biggest stage.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is sure to be sweating on the fitness of star winger Angel Di Maria, who is unlikely to start with a thigh injury
Klose became the greatest all-time scorer at the World Cup with a first-half effort against Brazil while Muller – winner of the Golden Boot in 2010 – is just one goal behind Colombia’s James Rodriguez in the race for this year’s prize.
The 24-year-old Muller already has 10 World Cup goals to his name, just six behind Klose, and it would surprise no-one if he was to add to his account against Argentina, a team he says will be targeted down the flanks and at set-pieces.
“I expect Germany to be very busy with build-up play. The midfield will have to distribute balls quickly into the forwards with fast, short passes,” Muller said on Friday.
“We need to spring a surprise on Argentina and use our wingers. If that doesn’t work, we’ll score from a free-kick or a corner. We seem to be the kings of those at the moment.”
Germany’s only injury worry surrounds the fitness of Mats Hummels but he is expected to shrug off a knee complaint.
While the significance of the occasion means no side will lack motivation, Argentina would dearly love to win their third World Cup in the spiritual home of Brazilian football.
Their sheer presence in the final means Germany are likely to receive partisan support but that is unlikely to faze four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Messi’s impact at the World Cup had been questioned prior to this year’s tournament but he has silenced his critics with a series of excellent performances, particularly in the group stages, where all four of his goals came.
And even though his individual performances have slightly dipped, perhaps understandable given the close attention he has received, the 27-year-old has still been a regular threat, and could cement his position as the greatest player of the modern era if he can fire Argentina to glory.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is sure to be sweating on the fitness of star winger Angel Di Maria, who is unlikely to start with a thigh injury, but Sergio Aguero is said to have returned to full fitness and could be involved from the beginning. Marcos Rojo is also a minor doubt with an ankle injury.