The big positive for Argentina is that Sergio Aguero, having come off the bench against the Netherlands, is fit to play some part in the game, although it seems likely that Ezequiel Lavezzi will again start. Angel Di Maria, who suffered a grade one tear of a thigh muscle in the quarter-final win over Belgium, has been running in training but it would be a major surprise if he were to recover in time to play any part in the final. Germany have no injury concerns and the expectation is they will start with the same team that began the semi-final against Brazil.
STOPPING THE GERMAN FLOW
Germany looked unstoppable as they sliced brought Brazil again and again on Tuesday, but they will find Argentina's midfield a far tougher challenge. Javier Mascherano is having a superb tournament, but the organisation and compactness of Argentina mean there simply won't be the space for Germany that they enjoyed against Brazil. That then raises the question of four years ago: excellent as they are playing on the counter-attack, can they play proactive football against a team certain to defend deep and still retain defensive solidity?
The problem for Germany is obvious. Although the quarter-final victory over France suggested they have rediscovered their balance with the return of the Sami Khedira-Bastian Schweinsteiger pairing in central midfield, it was never really tested against Brazil. Even against France, they had the good fortune to take the lead early from a set-play, and could then sit back; there was no need for them to try to take the game to them.
We still don't know whether the defensive problems that dogged Germany through qualifying and their first four games in this tournament have been solved. There can be no greater challenge to that structure than Lionel Messi, who has drifted through this tournament like a minimalist executioner, waiting for the slightest opportunity before applying the coup de grace.
The Netherlands kept him quiet with the use of Nigel De Jong, with Ron Vlaar stepping up from a back three and Georgino Wijnaldum dropping back to provide additional cover. Germany, playing a back four, have no similar option from centre-back, and Khedira and Schweinsteiger will have to play far less aggressive roles than they did against Brazil if they are to keep Messi quiet.
Against Brazil, Thomas Muller ran amok behind Marcelo, hitting the space behind the left-back again and again. He will have few such opportunities against Marcos Rojo, who, having been seen as one of the weak links for Argentina, has had a fine tournament. He will stay deep, taking on a far more defensive role than Marcelo did. On the other flank, Pablo Zabaleta will push forward to an extent and that places an onus on Mesut Ozil to defend, something at which he has historically shown little aptitude.
Eleven members of this Germany squad and eight from Argentina played in the quarter-final in Cape Town four years ago when Germany won 4-0. This, though, is a very different Argentina side, better managed and far less open.
Germany, too, have evolved and are less reliant on the counter-attack than they were, but it is the development of Argentina that is by far the more significant. "That was a hard blow, especially after a World Cup in which we played well but, on that day, nothing came off for us," said the goalkeeper Sergio Romero. "The post, the chances... but four years have passed and we hope to do things better than we did that day. We’ve grown a lot. From the first game, there’s been criticism and the team has changed, but the team puts their lives onto that pitch, they kill for each other."
After their semi-final success, Germany are understandably firm favourites and, if they score early, they could win comfortably, picking Argentina off on the break as they are forced to take the initiative. If they are frustrated, though, it's easy to imagine Argentina nicking a goal on the break, particularly with Gonzalo Higuain and Lavezzi seemingly coming back into form after injuries.
Backing a draw a half time with Argentina going on to win in the second half at 7.50 seems decent value.
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