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Five key things to watch in World Cup final between Argentina, Germany

Jul 11, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT

Argentina's Rodrigo Palacio celebrates after he scored their third goal against Peru during a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Buenos Aires Reuters

It’s with wistful fingers that we rattle out words on the keyboard for the last World Cup match for nearly four years, but at least we’re going out with a bang.

Germany and Argentina! Nations with a history, even with a pertinent ‘West’ attached to the former when the two sides went head-to-head in the 1986 and 1990 finals.

[ MORE: If Argentina win, will Messi finally join Maradona, Pele as best ever? ]

So where should your focus be for this massive match? Here are five things to monitor before and during the championship tilt:

1) Send me an Angel?

The 26-year-old wizard named Angel Di Maria is doing everything he can to get fit for Sunday’s final, and an effective Di Maria could be the difference between victory and defeat. His crosses and creativity quite literally can swing the match, let alone what it means to give Lionel Messi just a little more space.

2) Is “8” enough?

Much like Arsenal, Germany’s hum goes from reliable ride to high-performance sports car when Mesut Ozil is nimbly flying across the field. Germany can succeed if Ozil is average, or even if he has a rough match. But if he’s on his game, it’s hard to imagine Argentina topping the European side.

3) Super sweeper

Okay, okay, okay… Manuel Neuer is a goalkeeper, not the defender cleaning up messes we saw in the win over Algeria. But he’s also a fierce and agile competitor capable of dashing out to danger before opposing strikers can hit the scene.

4) Let’s get physical

Both teams will look to impose their bodies on the match, but whether Argentina can handle and/or avoid the toughness of the German back line is a key to the match. The Argentine side knows how to take a beating, but something tells me the Germans will have their physicality up a few notches.

5) Messi situation

Advanced statistics say he’s the best player going, and the Barcelona star’s magic moves will be absolutely imperative to Argentina’s hopes for the match. La Albiceleste are certainly more than just one man, but almost certainly not in a way that could propel them past the deepest team in the world.

  1. akcita - Jul 11, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    You are not wrong on 1, but have it backwards. Teams doubling up on Messi get burned by Di Maria. Having him back will be huge for the Abiceleste unlocking the German Defense. Look for Pere Mertesacker to get scorched…

    The rest of the questions are how well the Argentines will handle the discipline of the German Attack. Considering that the Netherlands were similarly gifted up front, there is speculation that the Germans will have a tougher time of it. Zabaleta and Demichelis are stalwarts of Man City’s Championship defense, and Barcelona’s Mascherano has been uncommonly solid as well.

    It is a toss up, but it should be an excellent game.

    • arminscopyofswank - Jul 11, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Mertesacker will not be starting, Hummels will.

      Germany has the best midfield in the game and will not just be relying on Robben for chances.

      Argentina will need to take their chances on a counterattack from a free kick or a corner to score. They will not be able to break down the midfield.

      They also can forget most set pieces as Germany is the tallest team in the WC. Argentina is one of the smallest.

  2. northeastsoccercoach - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    Mascherano was immense vs the Dutch.He’ll have to be so again to slow down the Germans… just ask the Brazilians what can happen if you have an invisible play in that spot.

  3. omniusprime - Jul 13, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    Great teams beat great players! Germany will teach Argentina not to Messi around with Neuer.

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