12 July 2014 10:37
Argentina will be out to rub salt into Brazil’s gaping wounds when they meet Germany in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup final.
Ahead of the showpiece, the dream final of many fans would have seen Brazil and Argentina go head-to-head in a feisty Maracana finale, though the hosts’ 7-1 semi-final demolition at the hands of Germany denied that.
But instead of the Rio de Janeiro crowd wishing Brazil’s conquerors be taken down in similar fashion, their rivalry with Argentina means partisan support is expected for Joachim Low’s side.
Brazil’s failure to win the tournament on home soil for a second time – after 1950’s ‘Maracanazo’ disaster against Uruguay – the last thing the locals will want to see is Lionel Messi hoisting the trophy high after Argentina’s third World Cup triumph.
Both sides have shown character on their respective routes to the final.
Germany were pushed to extra time by Algeria in the last 16, while Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina were taken to all the way by Switzerland at the same stage before needing penalties to overcome Netherlands and book a spot in the final.
The pair have met six times in World Cup action, with two meetings coming in the decider.
Argentina prevailed in the Mexican heat of 1986 as Diego Maradona sealed his world-class legacy, despite being almost man-marked out of the game by Lothar Matthaus.
German coach Franz Beckenbauer had warned his side would be more ready to win four years later in Italy, and he was proven right as a repeat final saw them win 1-0 in the tournament’s most tempestuous final.
Pedro Monzon and Gustavo Dezotti were shown the first red cards in a World Cup final, and eliminations at the hands of the Germans in the last two editions will have Argentina desperate for vengeance.
On home soil in 2006, Germany were typically nerveless in a quarter-final penalty-shootout win, while a post-match brawl showed old tensions remain.
Messi – whose contribution on Sunday will be so closely scrutinised – was just a teenage sensation in that Berlin clash, but he was a global superstar by the time the sides met four years later in Cape Town for another last-eight clash.
However, the Barcelona man was powerless to prevent a humiliating 4-0 defeat as Maradona’s ultra-attacking coaching methods were ruthlessly exposed.
Messi’s lack of contribution in South Africa saw doubts emerge over his ability to truly take over from Maradona as an icon for an Argentine generation.
This year, though, the skipper single-handedly dragged them through the group stage and, despite a limited contribution to the knock-out rounds, the 2014 World Cup will be remembered as Messi’s if Argentina are victorious.
While one man is the highlight of potential Argentina success, a win for Germany will shake off any nagging fears that they have become chokers.
Germany have made at least the semi-finals of the last three World Cups but won none.
They lost the 2002 final to Brazil before consecutive semi-final exits, while their last two European Championship campaigns have ended in final defeat and a semi-final loss.
Whether a Brazilian hoping to avoid a national disaster, an Argentinian hoping a legacy is affirmed, a German hoping to shake off doubts or a neutral looking forward to football’s finest fixture, Sunday’s clash is certain to be special.