Germany vs Argentina World Cup final 2014: Five reasons why Argentina will win the World Cup
With Lionel Messi in fine form, we look at how Alejandro Sabella can lead his Argentina side to glory in Brazil
A chance to gloat, an opportunity for revenge. To win the World Cup on Brazilian soil represents a dream scenario for Argentina, but they'll be facing a familiar foe in Sunday's final eager to prevent them from doing just that.
After Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari boldly claimed that his nation would win the World Cup before the tournament had even started, their fierce rivals now find themselves in a rather enviable position of silencing the home crowd at the Maracana on Sunday.
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Brazil's dream is over after their shock 7-1 crushing at the hands of Germany,. It's now up to these Argentina players to step out of the shadow of their Brazilian counterparts and rightfully take their place at the top of international football.
Victory would mark Argentina's first World Cup triumph since the 1986 World Cup final when they beat West Germany 3-2 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The two nations were paired up again at Italia '90, and after a tense final, West Germany prevailed 1-0 to exact revenge on the South Americans.
Sunday marks the third out of the last eight World Cups to be decided by these two teams, and here are five reasons why Argentina will emerge victorious.
1. Lionel Messi
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The Barcelona talisman has had to endure heavy criticism in the past over his allegiance to Argentina, given that he has spent half of his life living in Spain. But, as always, the 27-year-old does his talking on the pitch. He had always struggled to make an impression at World Cup tournaments, scoring just once before at the 2006 World Cup. However, Messi has revelled in his role as captain with four goals for Argentina, as well as creating opportunities for his team-mates, and Sunday's final is his opportunity to finally silence those critics who claimed he could never match up to Diego Maradona. He is centre of this team, there is doubt about that, and if he plays to his optimum level, Germany will be in for a long evening in Rio de Janeiro.
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2. Strong backline
The concept of 'attack is the best form of defence' is indeed a popular one with the bigger sides, but it appears that Argentina have discovered that when the goals have dried up, it's probably best to shore up the backline. Sabella's teams have always adopted a somewhat conservative style in order to secure victory, but there's something methodical about the way Argentina have gone about defending their goal in the World Cup so far. Just three goals have squeezed past Sergio Romero so far, and while the Sampdoria stopper has enjoyed a surprisingly fruitful tournament, the likes of Ezequiel Garay and Javier Mascherano have been solid as a rock. Argentina's ability to stand firm when weathering the storm has been crucial so far in the tournament, and it could be the key to victory for them against a Germany side so relentless in attack.
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3. Never-say-die spirit
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It's a quality that we've seen many great sides - most notably with Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson - about this enviable trait to never give up when faced with a tough situation. And Argentina seem to have picked up this characteristic too, having been pegged back twice by Nigeria before sealing a 3-2 victory thanks to a header from Rojo. They also had to wait until the 118th minute before Angel Di Maria finally found a way past Diego Benaglio in the 1-0 win over Switzerland in the last-16 knockout stage. It's this desire to win, this togetherness which suggests 2014 could be Argentina's year, and even if they do go behind against Germany, you'd back them to respond better than Brazil.
4. The best is yet to come
Argentina go into this game unbeaten and confidence is high in the camp, having won all five of their matches before the penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands in the semi-final. But while the statistics would suggest they are in good shape to take on Germany, there is no question they could play better. Even without the likes of Angel Di Maria, this is an Argentina side that possesses quality in abundance in the attacking department. The Albiceleste are able to play Messi and Gonzalo Higuain as a partnership, or use Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi either side of Messi as part of a three-man attack. The options available for Sabella mean they should be able to turn on the style, but they've failed to set the world alight so far. That should prove to be more of a danger, rather than a weakness, for Germany to look out for.
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5. Perfect send off for Sabella
Alejandro Sabella could be taking charge of his last match as Argentina coach in the World Cup final.
What would be better for Alejandro Sabella than to win Argentina's first World Cup on Brazilian soil with his last game in charge? Nothing. 'The Sloth' - as nicknamed by the Argentinian press - has brought this side back from the abyss after disastrous reigns under Diego Maradona and Ricardo Batista. They qualified top of the World Cup qualifying section and are yet to lose a game at the World Cup, so to win against Germany would mark the perfect end to his reign as he expected to resign from his role after Sunday's final. The players will obviously be desperate to win the World Cup for their own haul of career medals, but the extra motivation to win it for their coach could be enough to take them over the line.
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