Germany vs Argentina: How they compare

 

AP Sports Writer

The best player in the world goes up against the ultimate team machine, on the world's biggest stage.

When Lionel Messi's Argentina takes on Germany in Sunday's World Cup final, it looks at first glance like a meeting between brilliant individual scoring talent and the tight discipline of a collective unit.

But this game will be about much more than that.

Argentina has shown that it can play just as tactically as the Germans, eking out narrow victories and doing whatever is needed to win. Germany, meanwhile, has put on two of the most explosive displays of the tournament — beating Portugal 4-0 in its opening game and then demolishing host Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals.

Add in the rich history between these two teams — who faced each other in two straight World Cup finals in 1986 and 1990, winning one each — and it's anyone's guess who will come out on top at the Maracana Stadium.

Here is a look at how the two finalists compare:

---

GOALKEEPERS:

Manuel Neuer's reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world has only grown in Brazil, where he has been one of Germany's best players throughout the tournament, especially in the knockout rounds. Aside from being a first-class shot stopper, the Bayern Munich goalkeeper showed his versatility by repeatedly rushing out to help the defense in the second-round win over Algeria. He then made key saves to deny Karim Benzema an equalizer for France in the quarterfinals, and a number of impressive stops against Brazil.

Sergio Romero has answered most sceptics who questioned whether he was good enough to play for a top team in a World Cup. Romero was only a backup for his club Monaco this past season, but came through big in the penalty shootout against the Netherlands with two saves to send his team into the final. He has kept three straight clean sheets in the knockout rounds, but will face his greatest challenge yet against the clinical Germans.

Advantage: Germany

---

DEFENSE:

Germany's defense has improved vastly since coach Joachim Loew took captain Philip Lahm out of midfield and put him back in his favored position as right back after an erratic display against Algeria in the second round. Mats Hummels has been a steady anchor in central defense, and Germany had little trouble neutralizing the explosive attacks of both France and Brazil. Whether they can deal with Messi is another matter.

Argentina's defense was seen as its main weakness going into the World Cup, but the team has now gone 330 minutes without conceding a goal in the knockout rounds — including two extra time periods. The back four, which includes Manchester City duo Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis, made Dutch strikers Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie look plain ordinary.

Advantage: Germany

---

MIDFIELD:

This is Germany's biggest strength, a unit without weakness that plays together as a well-oiled machine. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira shore things up defensively while Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil direct most of the attacks going forward. Germany's ruthless display against Brazil was orchestrated by the clinical efficiency of its midfield, and a similar display on Sunday might just be too much for Argentina to handle as well.

The Argentines, meanwhile, are hoping that Angel Di Maria will recover from a thigh injury to play in the final. Di Maria's pace and ability to take on defenders on the wing was sorely missed against the Netherlands, when his team struggled to find ways forward. Defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano was one of the best players on the pitch against the Netherlands and is the key to keeping Germany in check.

Advantage: Germany

---

ATTACK:

Germany has the highest-scoring player in World Cup history in Miroslav Klose. But Argentina has Messi, and two other top forwards to boot. While Messi hasn't scored in the three knockout games, his four goals in the group stage reminded everyone of why he's a four-time world player of the year. Even with Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain in the team, Messi has always been the key to Argentina's success — and never more so than in the biggest game of his career. For Argentina to have a chance, Messi will have to create goals — either for himself or for his teammates.

Germany aren't bad up front either: Klose netted his 16th career World Cup goal against Brazil, and his teammate Thomas Mueller already has 10 in just two tournaments.

Advantage: Argentina

Read more Soccer stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Radamel Falcao gets loose during AS Monaco's training session at FIU on Monday but he might miss Wednesday’s friendly at Marlins Park while still recovering from a knee injury.

    Soccer | AS Monaco vs. Atletico Nacional at Marlins Park (8 p.m., No TV)

    Soccer friendly at Marlins Park will be missing James Rodriguez and possibly Radamel Falcao

    Billed as a battle between two Colombian soccer stars, Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, and Colombia’s top club team, the story line for Wednesday night’s match at Marlins Park between AS Monaco and Colombia’s Atletico Nacional has changed dramatically in the last few days.

  •  
Dario Srna of Shakhtar Donetsk lifts up Ukraine's soccer Super Cup after their victory against Dynamo Kiev at Lviv Arena in Lviv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

    Shakhtar Donetsk to play in Lviv this season

    Shakhtar Donetsk's coach says the Ukrainian champion will play its home games this season in Lviv in western Ukraine, over 1,000 kilometers from its home city, due to ongoing conflict in the east of the country.

  •  
Dario Srna of Shakhtar Donetsk lifts up Ukraine's soccer Super Cup after their victory against Dynamo Kiev at Lviv Arena in Lviv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

    Shakhtar Donetsk to play in Lviv this season

    Shakhtar Donetsk's coach says the Ukrainian champion will play its home games this season in Lviv in western Ukraine, over 600 miles from its home city, due to ongoing conflict in the east of the country.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category