Germany vs Argentina World Cup Final Preview

FIFA World Cup

After a month of upsets, shocks, wonderful goals and some bewildering moments, the World Cup will reach its zenith on Sunday afternoon. 32 countries vied for the biggest prize in sports but only two, Germany and Argentina are left to see who will claim it.

There is no shortage of history between these two nations. The 1986 World Cup Final was a terrific fixture that featured the legendary Diego Maradona, donning the vintage blue and white strip. Germany overcame a 2-0 deficit to draw level at the Azteca in Mexico City, before Jorge Burruchaga slid home the winner in the 83rd minute, to give Argentina its second World Cup title.

Four years later, the two met in Rome in the final. It was a dreadful, cynical affair, filled with fouls and negative tactics. Argentina’s Pedro Monzon was the first player in history to be shown a red card in the final. Germany managed the only goal of the match, thanks to Andreas Brehme’s penalty conversion in the 85th minute.

The last World Cup saw these two sides meet again, this time in the quarterfinals. It was all Germany, who routed Argentina 4-0, thanks to Miroslav Klose’s brace, as well as goals from Thomas Muller and Arne Friedrich.

Tactics When Argentina Is Attacking:

Lionel Messi

Argentina’s attack has centred around Lionel Messi. Perhaps the best player in the world, the Barcelona superstar has had an excellent tournament, scoring four times while being a creative force. There is no doubt that as Messi goes, so does Argentina. You cannot stop him, only contain him.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Germany may have the answer though. The holding midfielder pairing of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira have been outstanding for Die Mannschaft. They have effectively clogged down the centre of the pitch, with tough but fair challenges. A disciplined duo, Schweinsteiger and Khedira will be asked to mark Messi when the magician receives the ball deep. (Messi has been lying deeper in this tournament. Expect that trend to continue, when he rejoins Barcelona in the fall.)

Mats Hummels

If Messi can get past the midfielders, Germany have centre full-backs that are a fortress. Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng aren’t the fleetest defenders, but they are a stern pairing that don’t let much get past them. Both are a physical presence that can intimidate mere mortals. Messi is better than mere mortals, but he will be challenged to win crosses in the air against these two behemoths. Messi might get past them with his pace, but both Hummels and Boateng are terrific at playing the position and won’t get caught that easily.

Manuel Neuer

Then there is the issue of beating the keeper. Manuel Neuer has been arguably the best keeper in the tournament. The Bayern Munich goalie uses his long arms and athletic ability to thwart potential scoring opportunities. Messi will have plenty of work just to reach Neuer. It still might not be enough.

Ezequiel Lavezzi

Support for Messi is vital so the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain need to step up. Lavezzi has yet to open his account at this World Cup, while Higuain only has one goal to his credit. Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella moved Lavezzi to the right side, using more as a winger in their semifinal fixture versus Holland. It was Lavezzi’s best game of the tournament as he looked awake for the first time in Brazil.

Gonzalo Higuain

Higuain did score the lone goal for Argentina in the quarterfinals against Belgium, but was invisible in the semifinals against Holland before being replaced by Sergio Aguero.

Philipp Lahm

Higuain will not have an easy time in the final, as Philipp Lahm will be opposite him throughout. The Bayern Munich right back as been simply brilliant since Joachim Low moved him back to his natural position in the quarterfinals. Lahm spent some time in the central midfield, but he is best suited to defending the flank, while going on overlapping runs to join the attack. Higuain will need to track back, and help his defenders when Lahm goes forward.

Aguero did see time on the pitch in the semifinals, but he probably won’t be fit enough to play a full 90 minutes or more if required. If Higuain or Lavezzi are having a difficult game, expect the Manchester City to come on as a substitute.

Javier Mascherano

A weakness for Argentina is a lack of attacking midfield options. There is no talismanic figure at the centre of the pitch for La Albiceleste, leaving Messi to do all the work. Javier Mascherano is an exceptional holding midfielder, but he isn’t keen on going forward on attack.

The absence of Angel di Maria hurts Argentina. The Real Madrid midfielder suffered a thigh injury against Belgium in the quarterfinals, and is likely to miss the final. Maxi Rodrigues could be used as an attacking midfielder, but the chances of the 33-year old lasting a full 90 minutes is slim. Enzo Perez and Lucas Biglia are better defensive midfielders, but lack the offensive spark Argentina will need.

Marcos Rojo

Marcos Rojo can move from the back line into attacking mode. The Sporting Lisbon left back can go on overlapping runs when needed, but that could leave Argentina vulnerable on the flank where Thomas Muller sits. Germany are a strong counterattacking side, so Rojo will need to use good judgement on when to go forward.

Tactics When Germany Is Attacking:

Everyone saw what Germany did to Brazil in the semifinals. Die Mannschaft crushed the hosts 7-1, using brutal yet efficient force to finish virtually every scoring opportunity. Germany took advantage of acres of space conceded by Brazil to calmly yet coldly destroy A Selecao within a matter of minutes.

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller leads Germany with five goals in the competition, one astray from Colombia’s James Rodriguez for the Golden Boot. The Bayern Munich forward/midfielder/winger is a swift, efficient poacher, who can win balls in the air, or use his dribbling technique to defeat defenders. As mentioned earlier, the matchup between Muller and Rojo is one to watch. Can the Argentine keep his head, and stay back to mark the dangerous Muller? Or will Rojo get caught upfield, leaving Muller space to create or finish scoring threats? This could decide who wins the World Cup.

Miroslav Klose

Miroslav Klose is the new king of World Cup goal-scoring. The Lazio striker scored his 16th goal in the World Cup finals against Brazil, breaking the record, formerly held by Brazil’s Ronaldo. Klose is the classic poacher. He won’t beat you with dazzling skill, or mesmerizing talent, but he has the instinct to find open space, get to the ball and put it into the back of the net. Simple? Yes. But the simplest way is often the most effective.

Ezequiel Garay

Argentina’s two centre-backs, Ezequiel Garay and Martin Demichelis will have their hands full with Klose. Because Klose is good at finding space, zonal marking might be the answer to defuse that threat. Garay and Demichelis would be advised to guard space inside the penalty area, instead of straight man-marking Klose. Mascherano could fall back and help in preventing Klose getting free as well. But that might leave space for the German midfielders to swoop in. This will be a challenging task for Argentina.

Toni Kroos

Speaking of Germany’s midfielders, Toni Kroos was named Man of the Match against Brazil and with good reason. The Bayern Munich midfielder scored twice, while simply tearing apart Brazil’s soul with thunderous attempts on goal, or pinpoint perfect passes. Expect Mascherano to try to prevent Kroos from making a serious impact on the match. This will be another matchup to keep a close eye on.

Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil has started all of Germany’s knockout stage matches, and should be on the team sheet for the final. The Arsenal winger was wreaking havoc in the semifinal, as his darting runs and creative vision ripped Brazil to shreds. Ozil has been favoured over Mario Gotze by Germany coach Joachim Low and that should continue in the final.

Pablo Zabaleta

Pablo Zabaleta will be responsible for containing Ozil on the flank. The Manchester City right back isn’t very mobile, but will use his guile and positioning in an attempt to repeal Ozil’s advances. But the lack of pace may hurt Zabaleta. Ozil will use his superior speed to blow past Zabaleta if there is open space. Germany would be wise to take advantage of this.

Don’t expect Schweinsteiger and Khedira to push forward that often in the final as they will be busy, trying to contain Messi. However, if Messi drops back to deep because of a lacking Argentine midfield, it may green-light Schweinsteiger and Khedira to go move forward and penetrate the Argentine defence. But for the most part, expect the German duo to lie deep and pass the ball up to the attacking midfielders so they can create.

The overlapping runs of Lahm could cause a disturbance for Argentina, but the German captain will adhere to his defensive responsibilities first. Still, don’t be shocked to see Lahm charging down the flank to pursue a possible threat. Tracking back will be necessary for Argentina’s wingers, but they should be ready to counterattack if Lahm is caught. (Which is rare)

Sergio Romero

Argentina do have a strong goalie. Sergio Romero has been superb between the sticks. The Sampdoria keeper has not allowed a goal in normal time during the knockout stage. Romero shone brightly during the penalty shootout against Holland, making two terrific saves. Romero will be under pressure against the Germans, but he’s not a bad choice to guard the back line.

Possible Formations and Starting XI:

Germany, 4-2-3-1: Neuer: Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Howedes: Schweinsteiger, Khedira: Muller, Kroos, Ozil: Klose.

Argentina, 4-3-3: Romero: Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo: Rodrigues, Mascherano, Perez: Lavezzi, Messi, Higuain.

Prediction:

With Germany’s destruction of Brazil still fresh in everyone’s memories, it is impossible to pick against them. Sure, Messi might have the match of his life and prove to be the greatest player of his generation. Argentina are more tactically sound than Brazil, so don’t expect 7-1 to happen again. But there are too many concerns about Argentina’s midfield. Not enough attacking options leaves Messi alone far too often. While he is a truly great player, one man does not make a team and Messi needs help. Higuain and Lavezzi are too inconsistent at the best of times and Mascherano will be needed to defend. The Germans have many options going forward, but are disciplined enough to take care of matters inside their own penalty area. It won’t be a blowout, but everything favours Germany here. Germany wins 2-0, and will leave Brazil with their fourth World Cup title.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

 

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Let’s Not Call It Good-Bye…Let’s Call It “Smell Ya Later.”

Jsportsfan:

So long old friend. We may meet again sometime down the road.

Originally posted on Sports Blog Movement:

lisa-simpson-and-nelson-muntz-5612

Some things it seems aren’t meant to last forever.  America’s quadrennial interest in soccer, pre-teen romances, and sports blogs are three things we all know can have a life-span shorter than a Christian Scientist with a severed artery.  By this time next week, the end of the World Cup will relegate soccer to that same American sports broom closet as the Olympics, the relationship between Lisa Simpson and Nelson Muntz will exists only in re-runs, and Sports Blog Movement will no longer show up in your news feed.

This incarnation of SBM started in January of 2012, the idea being one site dedicated to to cross-promoting the works of independent sports bloggers. We raised up against the iron-mauled sports blog tyranny of the ESPNs and the Bleacher Reports of the world.  After two and a half years, over 1,100 posts, and over a dozen different contributors, it time to realize…

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Holland vs Argentina World Cup Semifinal Preview

FIFA World Cup

There is no shortage of history between Holland and Argentina when it comes to the World Cup. The two countries met in the 1978 final in Buenos Aires, where the hosts emerged with  3-1 triumph, and their first World Cup title.

 

20 years later in Marseille, Holland got their revenge, scoring a 2-1 victory thanks to one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup, scored by Dennis Bergkamp.

In total, Holland and Argentina have met four times on the biggest stage, with the Dutch holding a 2-1-1 advantage over their South American counterparts. Their last meeting was a dreary affair in 2006 that ended in a 0-0 draw.

Both sides have injury issues to deal with. Argentina will be without Angel di Maria who suffered a thigh injury in Argentina’s quarterfinal victory over Belgium. Holland will be without defender Ron Vlaar who picked up knee knock in Holland’s quarterfinal fixture against Costa Rica. The Dutch could also be without Robin van Persie, who is listed as questionable with a stomach injury.  However, Holland could see the return of midfielder Nigel de Jong, who has missed the quarterfinal against Costa Rica with a groin injury.

Arjen Robben

The Dutch have lined up in a 4-3-3 throughout the tournament, except in the quarterfinals when they went with three at the back. Expect the Dutch to revert to a 4-3-3 to defend Argentina’s attack. Arjen Robben has been a target of much hatred throughout the tournament. The Bayern Munich winger is a highly skilled player who does have three goals in the tournament. But his diving and theatrics have taken most of the spotlight. Robben can antagonize his opponents with his drama, or use his pace to go by defenders. Both have worked and both are a reason why Holland are in the final four.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

If van Persie can’t play, expect Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to go into the striker role. The Schalke forward does have one of the biggest goals for Holland, as his penalty conversion gave the Dutch the victory over Mexico. Memphis Depay could start, but he struggled against Costa Rica. The PSV Eindhoven winger might be better served coming off the bench. Dirk Kuyt is another option on the frontline, though he is more comfortable at midfield.

Wesley Sneijder

Wesley Sneijder has had moments of brilliance, as well as moments of calamity in the midfield. Sneijder’s smashing strike against Mexico, was the impetus the Dutch needed in the Round of 16. But he missed several glorious scoring opportunities against Costa Rica that nearly cost the Dutch. Sneijder will need to be in top form against Argentina. The rest of the midfield is in a state of flux. Will Kuyt remain on the right side? Will Depay drop back? Will Georginio Wijnaldum retain his starting role? Could Jeremain Lens be inserted into the team sheet? Many questions but no answers as of yet.

Daley Blind

If the Dutch use four at the back, Daley Blind will return to his left-back role. The Ajax star was used in a holding midfielder role against Costa Rica, with the green light to go into overlapping runs when he saw fit. Blind will be more cautious against an Argentina side that will take advantage of holes left by out of position wing-backs. With Vlaar absent, Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij should be the centre backs. They will have their hands full as Lionel Messi will be circling around the penalty area. Paul Verhaegh is the likely right back.

Jasper Cillessen

Jasper Cillessen wasn’t pleased that he was substituted for Tim Krul right before the penalty shootout. Cillessen threw a temper tantrum on the bench after he was removed from the game by Louis van Gaal. The Ajax keeper will start between the sticks, but focus will be a concern.

Argentina have used various formations throughout the tournament, including going five at the back. The most tactical side in South America won’t show their hand immediately against Holland, but when they do,  it could set the course for what type of game will be played.

Lionel Messi

Whatever they use, Lionel Messi is the engine that drives La Albiceleste. The Barcelona superstar has been brilliant at this World Cup, scoring three times while setting up the vital goals in Argentina’s two knockout round victories. There isn’t much else to say about Messi other than he is quite possibly, the best player in the world.

Gonzalo Higuain

 

Gonzalo Higuain scored the lone goal against Belgium and he will need to support Messi if Argentina are to see the final. Higuain can be brilliant, like he was against Belgium, or he can be invisible, like he has been for most of the tournament.

Javier Mascherano

The midfield has been pragmatic, resourceful and at times cynical throughout the tournament. Javier Mascherano is the most cynical of the midfielders. Mascherano isn’t afraid to make the harsh challenge or get into the face of his opponent. Expect the Barcelona midfielder to challenge Robben at every waking turn.

More is expected out of Ezequiel Lavezzi. The Paris Saint-Germain winger has been wasteful at this World Cup, since coming on to replace the injured Sergio Aguero. If Lavezzi doesn’t wake up from his slumber, Argentina may not see the final. Fernando Gago, Enzo Perez and Lucas Biglia are options at the centre of the pitch.

Marcos Rojo

The back line will welcome the return of Marcos Rojo. The Sporting Lisbon left back has been excellent throughout the tournament, but missed the quarterfinal fixture against Belgium due to suspension. Rojo could match up with Robben when the Dutch winger veers towards the right flank. Rojo isn’t afraid of making a harsh tackle so Robben should take haste if he does go onto Rojo’s side.

Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay are strong centre backs who will face their stiffest challenge against the Dutch. Neither are mobile, but they are stern defenders who will guard the penalty area like a fortress.

Pablo Zabaleta is the likely right back. The Manchester City defender does struggle with pace, but has been positionally sound for Argentina. He isn’t flashy, but he is a workmanlike defender who won’t stray from his duties.

Sergio Romero

Sergio Romero has been solid between the sticks for Argentina. The Monaco keeper has recorded consecutive clean sheets in the knockout phase. Romero wasn’t tested much, but that will change with the Dutch charging through.

Prediction:

This is a tough call. I’ve wavered on this one since this fixture was confirmed. Both teams have fitness issues and lineups won’t be confirmed until game time. This leaves questions in terms of tactics. What will each team do and how do they counteract what the other is doing? This could mean another chess match like in 2006, but with more on the line, I think both teams will push forward to a certain degree. It will be tight and tense. I’m calling penalties. Holland sneaks through and goes to the Final. Call it a hunch and nothing more. And no, I’m not taking bets on this one.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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