Jul 13, 2014

Argentina vs. Germany in World Cup final pits soccer royalty in search of new crowns


RIO DE JANEIRO — Only eight countries have won the World Cup, and with Germany and Argentina colliding in Sunday’s title match at Maracanã stadium, the club will remain locked to outsiders.

The Germans are three-time champions; the Argentines have won twice. Almost half of the 20 championship games have involved one of them, and for the third time, they are facing one another.

It is an old-school final, for sure, a clash of countries that have stocked soccer’s archives with Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta, Franz Beckenbauer and Jurgen Klinsmann.

Despite a bounty of trophies and accolades at their respective headquarters in Buenos Aires and Frankfurt, however, both squads have gone years without a major championship and, as consequence, have grown ravenous for a fresh prize.

Argentina last won the World Cup in 1986, Germany not since 1990. La Albiceleste (the White and Sky Blues) have not conquered Copa America, South America’s championship, in 21 years. Die Mannschaft (the Team) has gone 18 years since winning the European title.

“This would be something beautiful to give back to the people of Argentina,” defender Jose Basanta said. “That is one more step. We have a huge dream and we want to turn it into reality.”

Reality will be realized for one of the traditional sides in front of a global TV audience anticipated at more than 1 billion and a crowd of almost 75,000 that will include dozens of world leaders, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as well as the newest Cleveland Cavalier, LeBron James.

Argentina will attempt to win the title on the soil of its nemesis, Brazil — a feat worthy of two championships. Supporters have flowed over the border and flown into Rio by the thousands, setting up camp sites and, to the chagrin of Brazilians, showing the national colors.

Germany is aiming to become the first European team in eight attempts to raise the trophy on this side of the Atlantic following failure in South America, Mexico and the United States.

Argentina will again turn to superstar Lionel Messi, who is seeking to add a World Cup title to his vast portfolio of accomplishments and further escape the shadow of his country’s most revered player, Maradona.

The Germans are looking to maintain the momentum of a 7-1 demolition of Brazil in the semifinals, one of the most startling results in tournament history, if not soccer history.

“Nobody has become world champion in the semifinal,” German midfielder Toni Kroos cautioned. “We will have an extremely difficult last match. We will have to deliver another absolute total performance. I am convinced we will.”

There is no doubting Germany’s capacity. Despite some difficult matches, the Germans have been the most impressive team throughout the competition and enter the final as clear favorites. They took advantage of Brazil’s tactical and technical deficiencies, utilized their midfield strengths and finished opportunities with clinical precision.

“We need the perfect match,” Argentina Coach Alejandro Sabella said.

Argentina will take a more defensive approach than Brazil, looking to absorb pressure and launch Messi and Gonzalo Higuain on the counterattack.

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