Either Germany or Argentina will be crowned world champions as a hugely entertaining 2014 World Cup comes to end on Sunday with the final at Brazil’s biggest theatre of football, the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
This is the third time that these two nations have faced each other for the biggest prize in the international game, with Diego Maradona inspiring the South Americans in 1986, before Germany gained revenge four years later.
Joachim Low is looking to guide his nation to its fourth World Cup triumph and first major trophy since 1996. Should they come out on top, they would also become the first European side to succeed on South American soil. Meanwhile, Argentina are aiming to win this tournament for the third time.
Germany come into this as marginal favourites after their merciless destruction of the hosts on Tuesday. Everything looks to be coming together for them at just the right time, and their attitude and professionalism has won many admirers. When Oscar scored Brazil’s consolation in Belo Horizonte, Manuel Neuer and his defence reacted with fury.
The outstanding Neuer could be crucial in the outcome here, with Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero all set to test him over the course of the game. However, no side has matched the German’s efficiency going forward, with Thomas Muller in with a shout of earning his second successive World Cup Golden Boot, and Miroslav Klose having broken the World Cup scoring record.
Should Argentina come out on top, it would only add insult to injury for the beleaguered Brazilian supporters, who shudder at the prospect of their biggest rivals winning their own World Cup.
All the pressure will be on Messi to prove himself as the world’s best on the biggest occasion, and emulate the achievements of Maradona. He has the total faith of manager Alejandro Sabella, but the Argentine supporters are yet to be fully convinced. This is the perfect opportunity to convince them of his considerable talents.
This could be the time for Argentina to show their true colours, having reached the final in somewhat unconvincing fashion, failing to win any of their matches by more than a one-goal margin. Despite Messi’s four goals, Javier Mascherano has been their most impressive performer, delivering a man-of-the-match display in the semi-final against the Dutch.
FIFA have selected Niccola Rizzoli as the referee. The architect has taken charge of three matches so far at the finals, and he now becomes the third Italian to oversee a World Cup final. He previously officiated the final of the Champions League in 2013.
Mats Hummels is expected to fit enough to play for Germany, after he missed the second half against Brazil due to tendonitis. Shkodran Mustafi misses out through injury.
Di Maria and Aguero are both available for Argentina after shaking off injury problems, while Marcos Rojo will play despite failing to complete a training session on Friday.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Germany