•Argentina take on Germany in the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro
•The Germans’ 7-1 win over Brazil in the semi-finals should temper any over-confidence
•Winger Angel di Maria is a major doubt to start the final
•Alejandro Sabella has proven himself to be an astute manager in Brazil
The World Cup final will be viewed in Argentina as a date with destiny for Lionel Messi and the Albicelestes, but Germany’s demolition of Brazil in the semi-finals should serve to temper any over-confidence.
It may just suit Argentina to start the big match as the underdog.
Any sense that fate would intervene to grant Messi the world title he deserves to cap his remarkable career will be replaced by a knowledge that every Argentinian player on the pitch will have to be at his absolute best to counter Germany’s irresistible brand of precision football.
Even if the South Americans’ overall team performance is flawless, there is still the feeling that Messi himself will have to show his genius one more time if his side are to win the game.
‘La Pulga’ was kept relatively quiet by the Dutch in the semi-final, but that was a result of the European team forsaking much of their own attacking impetus to concentrate on subduing the No 10.
Germany are unlikely to take such a conservative approach. They will surely back their own abilities to overwhelm Argentina in midfield even if Messi is given a little more space than he was against the Netherlands.
With Angel Di Maria pulling up sore after his final training session, he is a major doubt to start the final, and may not appear at all, which is a huge blow for Alejandro Sabella’s side.
Di Maria was not at his brilliant best throughout the campaign, but he did offer a crucial attacking counterpoint to Messi. Enzo Perez has done a solid job of replacing the Real Madrid man, though he does not quite have the match-winning ability of Di Maria.