Germany vs Argentina World Cup final 2014 match preview: A statistical look at how Germany and Argentina shape up ahead of their showdown in the Maracana

It's the teamwork of Germany versus the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi as the World Cup comes to an end

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Such was the manner of their progression to the final, some are keen to hand Germany the World Cup on a platter. Their 7-1 drubbing of hosts Brazil was a landmark result in football history, and in turn it has masked some struggles in the competition to date.

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Argentina, meanwhile, have been underwhelming throughout the tournament but still find themselves in the final. This has certainly not been an easy campaign for either side, as the pre-tournament favourites have all had their pitfalls along the way. It is, nevertheless, the Germans that seem to be finding form at the right time.

Joachim Low's side's annihilation of Brazil was undoubtedly the best performance of the tournament and followed a narrow but comfortable quarter-final win over a France side that had impressed to that point. Indeed, Germany's team rating from WhoScored.com in the semi-final of 7.82 was well clear of their closest challengers (Netherlands - 7.58 vs Spain). It should not be forgotten, however, that they failed to beat both Ghana and Algeria over 90 minutes and they haven't exactly been watertight at the back - even in the rout over Brazil - with 12 sides having conceded fewer shots per game (12.7).

It's little surprise that Argentina are among those teams (11.3), particularly given that they haven't conceded a goal in the knockout stages. Over those three matches goalkeeper Sergio Romero has had to fend off just 6 shots on target from the opposition over 330 minutes of action. For those expecting the Germans to run riot again, it may be worth a reassessment, with Argentina's defensive organisation emerging among the strongest at this World Cup after doubts over their backline prior to the tournament. The South Americans are the only team yet to have found themselves in a losing position thus far, which is impressive in itself.

 

The key player in this improved defensive stability is not a defender, but Javier Mascherano's time at the back for Barcelona has certainly given him even more of an understanding of what is required in terms of protection in front of a back four. He's won more tackles than any other player at this World Cup (28), and when his side are in possession, they give the ball to him to spread the play from a position between the two centre-backs. The midfielder has both attempted (509) and completed (460) the most passes at the tournament and has played at least 14 more accurate long balls (68) than any other player.

Mascherano's effective man-mark job on Robben forced the Dutchman wide on Wednesday, and Germany too may look to exploit the flanks rather than attack through a congested midfield area, with both sides likely to line-up with a relatively flat three in the middle of the park. Low's side have focused their play down the right marginally more often than the left hand side (37%) and may well look to get Lahm in support of Ozil in advanced areas, with the option to pick out Klose and Muller, who are both impressive box finishers.

The latter has been exceptional for Die Mannschaft, with his unselfish style of play heralding 3 assists to add to a tally of 5 goals, and both he and Klose will be desperate to add to their superb World Cup records. If Muller scores, he will likely win the Golden Boot by virtue of his aforementioned assist tally. Klose, meanwhile, will want to sign off in style in what could well be his last appearance for the national team, with none of his record-breaking 16-goal haul having come in the final.

Having already been handed the benefit of an extra days rest, Joachim Low will have been watching with some glee when Argentina and Netherlands couldn't be separated in normal time. In all likelihood he wouldn't have been too bothered which side his team came up against, but with the physical and emotional drain of extra-time and penalties lingering over the Argentinean players, the odds certainly seem to be in the Europeans’ favour. Throw in Di Maria's likely absence through injury and Germany could have wished for little more.

That is, of course, aside from a no-show from Lionel Messi. The Barcelona-man may not have been at his imperious best in the semi-final, or throughout the knockout stages for that matter, but he is the one man on the pitch that could feasibly upset the odds almost single-handedly. He carried Argentina through the group stages and remains the highest rated player at the tournament according to WhoScored.com (8.77). Though he hasn't scored in the knockout stages, Messi's importance to the side remains. He played the pass for Di Maria's late winner against Switzerland and put in another unselfish display against Belgium.

Messi now has the chance to prove any critics of his performances for the national side wrong by inspiring Argentina to their first World Cup title since 1986, with the Germans their victims in the final that year as the game ended 3-2. It's been a fantastic World Cup. Here's hoping the final lives up to that of 86' in terms of entertainment.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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