[BRAZIL 2014] Germany enters Sunday's World Cup final brimming with confidence after its slaughter of Brazil in Belo Horizonte. German confidence, bordering on arrogance, is nothing new on the world stage, but Argentine caution? Even with Lionel Messi, the Argentines have shown a surprising unwillingness to venture out of their shell. It's gotten them to the final with three straight shutouts, but it is hard to imagine it can stop Germany at the Maracana.
1. German confidence: help or hindrance?Germany was so dominant in its 7-1 win over Brazil in the semifinals that Thomas Mueller said the players had to agree among themselves not to do anything that might humiliate the hosts. As if their record five goals in the first 29 minutes of the game was not enough?
German confidence has been growing since escaping with a 2-1 overtime win over Algeria. The Germans disposed of France with a 1-0 victory that was far easier than expected. And that does not begin to the describe the semifinal against Brazil. Even Nate Silver's 538 got that one mightily wrong, giving Brazil a 65-35 percent edge over Germany.
Mueller says Germany is ready for any kind of game against Argentina -- "I’m not expecting that we'll be ahead 5-0 at halftime again like against Brazil even though that would be nice," he says -- but that does not mean he is not confident. "We know what we have to do," he says.
Is there any chance of Germany becoming overconfident? That's hard to believe after reaching the semifinals of the last four major competitions it has entered and coming away without a championship. The Germans are clearly on a mission.
"We're here to win the World Cup," German captainPhilipp Lahm says emphatically.
2. Argentina's willingness to attack. Caution has been the hallmark of the Argentines throughout the World Cup. It's got them to the final with three 1-0 wins, a 2-1 win, a 3-2 win and a shootout win after the semifinal against the Netherlands ended 0-0.
Argentina's back six has been solid -- Javier Mascherano is widely regarded to have been the best holding midfielder at the World Cup -- but it will get the Albiceleste nowhere if there is no support for Messi in attacking the Germans.
If there is any weakness in the German team, it is on its backline. And it is no coincidence that the only time the Germans have been threatened at the World Cup came in their second match when for 20 minutes in the second half Ghana had them on the ropes before settling for a 2-2 tie, the lone blemish on the German record in Brazil.
So far, though, Argentina -- even with Messi -- has shown no willingness to put the foot to the pedal like the Black Stars did in Fortaleza.
3. The midfield battle.Germany brought only one out-and-out striker to the World Cup -- Miroslav Klose-- and didn't even start him for the first four games for a reason. It is loaded with midfielders.
While Germany arrived in Brazil with concerns about the fitness of Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lahm, all have gotten stronger as the tournament has gone on. And with all three now in the lineup after Lahm was moved back to right back, Germany has dominated in midfield.
In the quarterfinals against France, Germany made the Bleus' midfield -- excellent until then -- look quite pedestrian. Four days later in Belo Horizonte,Toni Kroosand Khedira ran over the Brazilian midfield as if it was not even there.
Argentina presents a wrinkle, though, in that the German midfielders have not come up against a player like Messi at this World Cup. (Cristiano Ronaldo, marooned up front,was no factor for Portugal against Germany in the opener.)
How much Schweinsteiger and Khedira dare to venture forward will say a lot about just how confident the Germans are.