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A combination of file photos shows Argentina’s forward and captain Lionel Messi (left), in Rio de Janeiro on June 15, and Germany’s forward Miroslav Klose in Fortaleza on June 21. Germany will face Argentina in the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro on July 13
Germany prepare to wreck Messi dream Argentina eye third title

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 12, (AFP): A Germany side chasing a place in history will attempt to wreck Lionel Messi’s dream of a World Cup coronation with Argentina on Sunday as the month-long football carnival hits a climax at the Maracana Stadium. The 64th game of one of the best World Cups of all time pits Europe against South America — a duel between two football superpowers in one of the sport’s most evocative arenas. Germany are attempting to become the first side from Europe to win a World Cup in the Americas, determined that a golden generation will finally gets it reward after a string of near-misses.

Messi, meanwhile, is seeking the triumph which will silence forever the remaining critics who argue that the absence of a World Cup title precludes him from a place alongside Diego Maradona in football’s pantheon. The momentum is firmly with Germany after their astonishing 7-1 semi-final demolition job of Brazil, through a combination of superb attacking play and defensive incompetence. Ominously for Argentina, Germany say they quickly put the win firmly in the rearview mirror. All German eyes are now on the historic Maracana and a chance to claim the ultimate prize after losing in either the final or the semi-finals in their last four major tournaments.

“We enjoyed the game against Brazil, but we ticked it off after 24 hours,” said Germany striker Miroslav Klose. That same steely determination has characterised Germany’s road to Rio, notably in coming from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw with Ghana in Group G and outlasting an awkward Algerian challenge in the last 16. They coolly neutralised a dangerouslooking France 1-0 in the quarter-finals and swiftly turned their attention to dismembering Brazil. “As a player or a manager I have never seen a team celebrate a big victory so quietly,” German team manager Oliver Bierhoff said after the France win. From top to bottom, the German spine has exuded quality. Manuel Neuer has looked unbeatable in goal while Mats Hummels has been a silky and solid presence in defence. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira have proved a formidable midfield duo, allowing the likes of Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil to flourish.

Thomas Mueller has been a deadly goalscoring threat — five goals so far in the tournament — while the 36-year-old Klose has chipped in with two goals, becoming the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer in the process. Germany’s 17 goals in the tournament — more than double Argentina’s total — have come from eight different players, a testament to the team ethic which pervades Joachim Loew’s squad. “Brazil have Neymar, Portugal have Ronaldo, Argentina have Messi and Germany have a team,” ran one widely retweeted summary on Twitter this week.

Ranged against Germany’s attacking arsenal are an Argentina side led by 27- year-old Barcelona superstar Messi. The four-time world footballer of the year came into the tournament determined to atone for two disappointing World Cups in 2006 and 2010. Like Maradona 28 years ago, he has dragged his team over the line at key moments in Brazil. He opened with an individual goal against Bosnia, an injurytime winner to beat Iran, and two more goals against Nigeria. Messi’s run and pass created the extratime winner for Angel Di Maria against Switzerland in the last 16. While he was largely anonymous in the semi-final win over the Dutch, Germany will know that one slip on Sunday could present Messi with a match-winning moment, just as it did for Maradona in the 1986 final against the Germans.

Man-marked out of the match by Lothar Matthaus, Maradona still created the game’s winning goal — a sublime firsttime through ball which released Jorge Burruchaga to clinch a 3-2 victory. “Regardless of whether he scores goals or not, his influence is decisive,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said of Messi after the quarter-finals. “A game has many aspects, apart from goals. When you have a player such as Messi, who never, or almost never, loses the ball, it’s water in the desert — and not just when he scores.” Yet for all the parallels with 1986, the last World Cup meeting between the two nations may be more relevant — Germany’s 4-0 romp in the 2010 quarterfinals.

Seventeen players involved in that Cape Town match featured in this week’s semifinals, 10 for Germany and seven for Argentina. But many observers have wondered whether Messi’s dip in form last season was due to a pre-occupation with the World Cup. It could be that the diminutive genius has been plotting all along to claim the crown on Sunday at the Maracana. “If he is saving his best performance for the final,” said former England manager Glenn Hoddle, “it will be a joy to watch.” Ukraine’s leader has accepted an invitation to attend Sunday’s World Cup final, with Russian President Vladimir Putin also among the spectators, amid a crisis between their countries, Brazilian officials said.

“The president of Ukraine (Petro Poroshenko) confirmed Friday that he will go to the final,” a Brazilian presidency spokesman told AFP on Saturday. A foreign ministry spokesman said the Ukrainian and Russian leaders would attend a lunch hosted by President Dilma Rousseff before the Germany-Argentina final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium. Putin, whose country will host the 2018 World Cup, confirmed his attendance weeks ago. He will also attend a summit of the BRICS group of emerging powers in the northeastern city of Fortaleza on Tuesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also attending the match, will meet with Putin in Rio. Germany fans have snapped up more than two million shirts on their run to Sunday’s World Cup final with sponsors Adidas struggling to keep up with demand.

“We have already sold over two million shirts,” Adidas boss Herbert Hainer told SID, an AFP subsidiary. “I had to get a shirt for an acquaintance and it was pretty difficult, even for me. “And from what I have heard, the stores are also pretty much sold out.” If Germany beat Argentina in Sunday’s World Cup final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium to win a fourth title, Adidas will start producing shirts with an extra fourth star over the German FA (DFB) badge. “The shirts with the three stars on will probably soon become collectors items,” said Hainer. “They should all be snapped up quickly - just like the shirts with a fourth star on.” After Germany crushed Brazil 7-1 in Tuesday’s semi-final wearing their blackand- red striped away shirt, the alternative shirt has also been snapped up by eager ‘Mannschaft’ fans. “We were surprised by how well the away shirt has sold,” admitted Hainer.

Argentina vs Germany head-to-head record


RIO DE JANEIRO, July 12, (AFP:) Full List of matches between Argentina and Germany ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium: Total matches played: 21 Argentina wins: 9 Germany wins: 7 Drawn: 5


08/06/58: World Cup - West Germany 3 Argentina 1

16/07/66: World Cup - Argentina 0 West Germany 0

14/02/73: Friendly - West Germany 2 Argentina 3

03/07/74: World Cup - Argentina 1 East Germany 1

05/06/77: Friendly - Argentina 1 West Germany 3

12/09/79: Friendly - West Germany 2 Argentina 1

01/01/81: Copo D’Oro - Argentina 2 West Germany 1

24/03/82: Friendly - Argentina 1 West Germany 1

12/09/84: Friendly - West Germany 1 Argentina 3

29/06/86: World Cup - Argentina 3 West Germany 2

16/12/87: Friendly - Argentina 1 West Germany 0

02/04/88: Friendly - West Germany 1 Argentina 0

08/07/90: World Cup - West Germany 1 Argentina 0

15/12/93: Friendly - Argentina 2 Germany 1

17/04/02: Friendly - Germany 0 Argentina 1

09/02/05: Friendly - Germany 2 Argentina 2

21/06/05: Conf. Cup - Germany 2 Argentina 2

30/06/06: World Cup - Germany 1 Argentina 1 (Germany win 4-2 on penalties)

03/03/10: Friendly - Germany 0 Argentina 1

03/07/10: World Cup - Argentina 0 Germany 4

15/08/12: Friendly - Germany 1 Argentina 3


Past World Cup Winners

1930 - Uruguay; 1934 - Italy; 1938 - Italy; 1950 - Uruguay; 1954 - West Germany; 1958 - Brazil; 1962 - Brazil; 1966 - England; 1970 - Brazil; 1974 - West Germany; 1978 - Argentinal;1982 - Italy; 1986 - Argentina; 1990 - West Germany; 1994 - Brazil; 1998 - France; 2002 - Brazil; 2006 - Italy; 2010 - Spain.




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