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As we enter our 63rd and 64th matches respectively this weekend, the long road that began essentially four years ago culminates with the crowning of a new World Cup winner. Having spent the entirety of the World Cup in Brazil, we’ve had a firsthand account of both what football means to Brazilians and above all else, the efforts from both fans and players in their quest and experience to win a World Cup. Several sights over the course of the month-long tournament can be seen above through the gallery, but all becomes irrelevant on Sunday, July 13.
It has been arguably one of the most exciting World Cups to date, complete with ample amounts of controversy, shock results, and a slew of new players destined to enter the international spotlight. A tumultuous group stage saw many of the world’s biggest stars fail to carry on such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Andrea Pirlo who all were left packing their backs earlier than expected. However, not to go unnoticed though were the likes of Costa Rica and the United States who punched beyond their weight and collectively impressed the world. Players like James Rodriguez earned the title of King James while several memorable goalkeeper stories also emerged ranging from Tim Howard’s record-breaking nailbiter against Belgium, and Holland’s Tim Krul and his penalty shootout antics to push Holland through to the semifinals.
However as we entered the knockout stages, many of the games were settled with indecisive victories (except of course one game…) with several going into extra time and penalties. A lack of urgency was replaced with an overly cautious approach as games became less about scoring but more about minimizing mistakes. On Sunday, the final game represents the battle of two established footballing powerhouses who both enter undefeated. Each considered pre-tournament favorites, Germany and Argentina will each aim to add to their trophy cabinets with both teams raising football’s biggest prize on several occasions prior.
Germany’s path has been one of absolute efficiency, racking up a number of well-deserved accolades along the way. Miroslav Klose officially earned the spot as the tournament’s all-time top scorer, while the younger guard in 24-year-old Thomas Müller is currently in contention to win this year’s Golden Boot with five goals already. It’s not a stretch to say that we may see Müller claim the crown by next World Cup.
But while many will talk about Germany and Brazil’s epic game known as the Mineirazo, some may look at it from a different perspective. The loss of both Neymar Jr. and Thiago Silva meant a weakened Brazilian side were in for a battle from the get-go but as many critics and peers are quick to point out, this Brazilian side had already earned the title of being a poor, poor team supported by a boisterous crowd and of course a cast of referees. In many ways, the luck and the calls were meant to run out eventually. In the semifinal, PSG’s newly acquired David Luiz looked foolish on more than one occasion with the ease in which Germany scored the first goal meant trouble was certainly on the horizon. Yes, Germany’s coming off an epic demolition of the hosts but it’s tough to say if there was ever a true challenge at hand – I mean we’re talking about a team with Fred…
Coming from the other side, Argentina has failed to impress in previous games. The Argentine contingency went to penalties to beat a Dutch team that despite having a high-powered arsenal at their disposal with Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben had failed to score a non-shootout goal in 240 minutes of previous play. Angel di Maria’s unfortunate injury has surely put a damper on the spirits of the Argentine camp given his ability to attack players with great danger. But despite this, a team with Lionel Messi is hard to discount ever. Arguably football’s biggest game changer, a lack of club appearances due to injury may mean that Messi is fresher than most and given the proximity to Argentina, you can imagine many Argentine fans are making the quick journey to Rio.
With Sunday’s final looming, Germany essentially took a comfortable stroll in the park and will enter the final with a day’s extra rest and preparation while Argentina were forced to battle it out over an extra 30 minutes (albeit at somewhat lethargic pace versus Holland). However Argentine will likely have a great crowd at their back and the knowledge that no European team has ever won the World Cup on Latin American soil.
The 2014 World Cup Finals will take place on Sunday, July 13 at Marcanã Stadium at 3 p.m. EST.