Here's what you need to know ahead of today's final World Cup match between Argentina and Germany.
Defense (Argentina) versus Offense (Germany)
Prognosticators (and professional gamblers) have been placing the odds on Germany to win because of its swift and swooping high-powered offense. The players are seemingly interchangeable with an incredibly efficient system anchored by their midfielders.
In this tournament, Germany's Thomas Müller became the first player in history to score five goals in consecutive World Cups and is second only to Colombia's James Rodriguez in goals scored. Also, with his goal against Brazil, Germany's Miroslav Klose became the highest-scoring player in the history of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, if there's one team designed to shut down Germany's attack, it's probably Argentina. Consider that Argentina has not allowed a single goal in its three knockout round matches. They also have won every single game they've played in.
The odds rightly favor Germany, but if Argentina can close off passing lanes, keep German midfielders at bay, and pressure the Germans into slipping up, anything is possible.
History favors Argentina
As we noted yesterday, no European team has ever won a World Cup played in the Americas.
If you think Germany's dominant performance through the World Cup as well as its 7-1 destruction of Brazil in the semifinal is enough to surmount this historical coincidence, you may very well be right. But there's also this:
Watch out Germany!!! Since 1954, no team has won the World Cup after scoring 7 (or more) goals in a match in the tournament— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) July 13, 2014
Also, since 1994, whichever country defeated the third-place team in the tournament has gone onto to win the World Cup. Yesterday's defeat of Brazil by Netherlands doesn't bode well for Germany.
Argentina striker Lionel Messi can cement his place in the soccer pantheon with a stellar performance. He's arguably the best player on the planet, he challenges defenders, has a total mastery of ball control, and fears none. Throughout this World Cup, when Messi hasn't been dominant, he's still remained very dangerous, opening up opportunities for other players.
If the game stays close and one great play needs to be made, expect it to be made by Messi. His legacy as an all-time great is on the line today. As the New York Post explained:
The 27-year-old Barcelona star already has won a record four FIFA World Player of the Year trophies and three UEFA Champions League titles. But it’s the World Cup that has left a gaping space in his trophy case and whole on his résumé — Pele has three, Maradona his one from 1986."
Otherwise, it came just come down to the popes.