World Cup 2014: Day 31

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Germany head into the World Cup final against Argentina tomorrow as firm favourites. The Germans were rampant in the semi-finals, destroying hosts Brazil 7-1, with a performance that has led many to already accept they will win the greatest prize in World football in Rio. Germany began the tournament in fine style, cruising to a 4-0 win over Portugal. Thomas Müller helped himself to a hat-trick that day, while Mats Hummels also got in on the act. Germany were helped by the dismissal of Pepe in that one, and found it far tougher the second time out against a tough Ghana side. The Africans found themselves 2-1 in front after Götze had put Germany in the lead, but veteran striker Miroslav Klose was on hand to grab an equaliser. The final group game saw another close encounter, this time against a well-organised USA side coached by former German legend Jurgen Klinsmann. The game could have gone either way, but in the end it was settled by a fantastic goal from Müller, his 4th of the tournament, although the 1-0 scoreline also ensured both sides progressed from the group stages.

Into the second round, Germany faced another well organised side in Algeria, and found it extremely difficult to break the Africans. The game ended goalless in normal time, although the deadlock was broken 2 minutes into extra-time by Schürrle. Mesut Özil guaranteed the result with minutes left, although there was still time for the Algerians to grab a consolation goal from the spot. The quarter-finals saw a clash against fellow European nation France, and despite a wonderful early headed goal by Mats Hummels, the game remained tight as the Germans edged through 1-0. In the semi-final they came up against the hosts, and few could have predicted the record breaking encounter to follow. A double from Schürrle and Kroos, as well as goals from Müller, Klose and Khedira gave Germany a 7-0 lead before Brazil were able to pull one back at the death. The strike from Klose means the Lazio striker has now become the top all-time goalscorer in the World Cup finals, as well as becoming the first man to feature in 4 semi-finals. The result also handed Brazil their joint biggest ever defeat, while seeing the Germans overtake them as top all-time goalscorers in the World Cup. Germany should be able to welcome back Mats Hummels, who has already got 2 goals in this tournament from the back, into the heart of the defence for this one. Argentina are likely to provide a far sterner challenge to the Germans than their South American neighbours. The match is the third time the pair have met in the World Cup final (including as West Germany). Argentina triumphed in 1986, thanks largely to the magic of Maradona, while Germany were 1-0 winners the last time the pair met in the final back in Italia ’90. Germany will also be looking to add to their record breaking haul during this tournament, and claim another record by making their 8th World Cup final appearance (including as West Germany). A win would also see them become the first European team to win the title in either of the American continents.

Argentina will be hoping that Real Madrid winger Ángel di María will be fit enough to play some part in the final after he missed the semi-final against the Netherlands. The Argentinians needed extra time and penalties to overcome the Dutch, but that was largely due to the defensive tactics employed by Holland. Sergio Romero was the hero that day as he saved two penalties to see his side qualify for the final for the 4th time in their history. Argentina have relied largely on the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi so far in this tournament, although the Barcelona star has yet to put in a performance of the highest calibre. Argentina kick started their tournament in this stadium with a 2-1 win over Bosnia, although they suffered a late scare as Bosnia pulled one back. Messi was on target that day, and he found the net again with a solitary goal right at the very death against Iran in their second game. The final group game was a more open affair, when Argentina were twice pegged back before eventually beating Nigeria 3-2 to finish the group with a 100% record. Messi twice put his side in front, but it took a goal from fullback Marcos Rojo to ensure the win.

In the second round, the Argentines were forced into extra-time against a resolute Switzerland team, and with penalties looming another piece of magic from Messi picked out di María, who produced the finish to send his side through. The quarter final was another tight affair, although La Albiceleste did take an early lead through Gonzalo Higuaín. It proved to be the only goal of the game as they registered another 1-0 win to reach the semi-finals. The game against the Dutch was a largely frustrating affair, with both sides cancelling each other out, while Van Gaal employed Nigel De Jong to keep close tabs on Messi, a tactic which worked to perfection as the Argentina captain was a largely peripheral figure during the game. Alejandro Sabella threw on the returning Sergio Agüero in an attempt to avoid penalties, and both sides had chances to win the game in extra time, but in the end it went to spot-kicks, and some brilliance from Romero, as well as perfect spot kicks from Messi, Garay, Agüero and Rodríguez saw them through. The pair have met 7 times in total at the World Cup, with Germany having won the majority, including elimination at the last 2 World Cups, so Argentina will be desperately seeking revenge on this occassion. Argentina will still be scarred from the 4-0 defeat back in 2010, and will be keen to turn the tide this time out, although they were also 3-1 winners the last time the pair met in a friendly back in 2012.

Germany are unbeaten in their last 17 games, winning 12 and drawing 5, while Argentina have kept 9 clean sheets in their last 11 outings. The Germans will no doubt be relying once more on the goalscoring exploits of Thomas Müller, who has grabbed 5 goals so far in this tournament. The 24 year old Bayern striker has a phenomenal record in the World Cup finals so far, having already grabbed 10 goals in his 12 appearances, as well as 6 assists, as he looks sure to chase down the record of his team-mate Klose, who will no doubt be making his final appearance for the national team should he figure in the Maracanã. Argentina will no doubt be hoping that 3 time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, can produce a performance similar to that of the great Maradona, and take his team to the title. Despite not being his best, the Barcelona man has been instrumental in everything Argentina do going forward, creating 21 chances so far in this tournament, the best of any player. After starting so well, however, he has failed to find the target in his last 3, and there could be no greater stage to end his mini goalscoring drought than the World Cup final. At the other end, Argentina have been one of the best defensively organised sides in Brazil, having yet to concede in the knockout stages, and remarkably also having never been behind so far in this competition. Whether they can keep the rampant Germany attacking line at bay remains to be seen, but with a fit again Agüero alongside the brilliance of Messi and other strong options like Lavezzi and Higuaín, they are perhaps the best equipped to punish Germany’s usual preference for a high defensive line. All the money is, unsurprisingly, going on Germany, who are currently best price 2.3 to lift the trophy, while Argentina are as long as 3.25 in some bookmakers. With 3 City players potentially in the Argenine starting XI, I’m going heart over head on this one, and having a small play on Argentina. Whatever you get on, good luck, and I’m just hoping for a game that is worthy of the occassion, with over 1 billion viewers expected to tune in.

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Author: siepod

Massive technology geek Former runner looking to rediscover two working knees Ex Personal trainer currently looking to escape self imposed fitness exile Manchester City season ticket holder until 1998 & again from 2002 to present Atlético Madrid season ticket holder 1999-2001 & still follow from afar Love creative writing, and former journalist for Opta Soccer, Planetfootball & Sky Sports Former games tester, researcher and designer for Gremlin Interactive, Infogrames & Dinamic Multimedia

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