Germany and Argentina will battle for the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, and both sides are 90 minutes away from a victory that would shape legacies on both sides.
The Germans are knocking on the door of their fourth world championship, and this one is a long time coming. After near-misses in major competitions the last decade, Germany look more threatening than ever as told by their 7-1 drubbing of hosts Brazil.
Lionel Messi could etch his own place among the all-time footballing greats if he takes Argentina to victory. The World Cup is the lone trophy missing from his collection and undoubtedly the most glaring.
Here's a look at everything you need to know for Sunday's final.
Date: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Time: 4 p.m. local, 3 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. BST
Where: Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Clive Rose/Getty Images
As if the past few days couldn't get any worse for Brazil, arch-rivals Argentina can hoist the World Cup trophy in their country to make that pain reach a boiling point. But the Germans will have something to say about that.
Germany have seemingly made this World Cup theirs since the start. Ever since their 4-0 drubbing of Portugal to open up play in the group stage, they've been on a mission, and the machine has marched on toward the final.
With the ability to score goals in bunches, Germany can make opponents pay by flooding the score line. Nobody has made a bigger impact on that than Thomas Muller.
The Bayern Munich midfielder is just one goal shy of Colombia's James Rodriguez with five scores—one more, and he'll tie the Golden Boot lead. WhoScored.com noted Muller's successes in this World Cup:
Thomas Müller: No player has directly contributed to more goals (8) at the 2014 World Cup than Müller (5 goals, 3 assists) #ger
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 9, 2014
It's been much more than the attack that has propelled Germany to the final. When the goal-scoring touch isn't there, suffocating defense can be relied upon, as Manuel Neuer has kept a clean sheet in three of his last four appearances.
With Messi coming to town, that will be easier said than done this time around.
Four goals in the group stage set the tone for a huge World Cup for Messi. And though he hasn't added to his goal tally in three elimination matches, he's done enough to get his Argentine side through to the final.
Much more crucial to Argentina's success in their last two matches has been Javier Mascherano. The defender-midfielder hybrid has been crucial in keeping Argentina's back line in order while giving them a boost in the midfield.
Squawka Football captured Mascherano's success against the Netherlands in a penalty-shootout win:
Javier Mascherano's game by numbers: 84% pass accuracy 4 tackles won 75% aerial duels 3 interceptions 2 blocks #ARG pic.twitter.com/8FhNT9LiwR
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 9, 2014
Mascherano has only been a part of an Argentina defense that has frustrated some of the world's best in recent matches. They held both Belgium and the Dutch scoreless, and that came after doing the same against Switzerland.
But against Germany, they will be hard-pressed to repeat that, given the Germans' recent form with William Hill Betting among the favourites places for predictions for the match.
ESPN's Ian Darke thinks that form bodes well for the German side:
History says Argentina. Form here says Germany .
— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) July 10, 2014
Argentina have enough on the defensive side to keep Germany at bay for 90 minutes, perhaps even 120 if goalkeeper Sergio Romero is up to the task. Just as well, Messi will be no match for a German back line that hasn't let up much of anything.
These finals always play so tight, and with two elite defenses, this is bound for penalty kicks. When that moment comes, the German side have more elite finishers, and that will propel them to a fourth World Cup title.
Prediction: Germany 0, Argentina 0 (Germany 5-3 penalty kicks)