Thirty-two teams came to Brazil in June with the ultimate dream, and now only two remain. This afternoon, one team will raise the FIFA World Cup trophy and a nation will celebrate.
Nearly everyone who has been watching the 2014 World Cup agrees this tournament has been one of the most exciting and compelling editions in memory. From the controversial opening match between the host Brazilians and Croatia to today's final, this tournament has kept all observers on the edge of their seats. The 2014 WC has surprised with some early departures for football powers, amazed with a few Cinderellas, excited with some new rising stars of the sport, thrilled with last second heroics and heartbreaks, shocked with a destruction of the host team for the ages, and delighted with some absolutely gorgeous goals. Weather and logistics and financial questions aside, this has been an incredible event.
And now only Match #64 is left to be played. Die Mannschaft has won three World Cups ('54, '74, '90) and is looking to tie Italy for the second most World Cup titles at 4 (Brazil remains with the most at 5). La Albiceleste is looking for its third title (78', '86) and first since Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal. Both teams were on the short list of pre-tournament favorites to lift the trophy, and both teams have now successfully navigated their course to the finals. Germany and Argentina have played for the World Cup title twice before, with each side winning once, so one side will break that tie today, but more recently, Germany eliminated Argentina in the quarterfinals of the last two World Cups, so Argentina will have plenty of motivation today.
Germany has probably been the most impressive team throughout the tournament, beginning with a dominating 4-0 shutout against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, which is now almost forgotten in the wake of their historic 7-1 obliteration of Brazil in the semifinals. A 2-2 tie with Ghana in pool play was the only time the Germans ever looked vulnerable. The Argentine defense has played very well, giving up just 3 goals in 6 games, but will have its hands full trying to contain German midfielder Thomas Müller, who has scored five goals himself. Andre Schürrle (3 goals) and Miroslav Klose, the all time World Cup goal leader (16) playing in his WC finale, provide enough options in the German offense to keep Argentina from camping on Müller alone.
Argentina advanced steadily through their tournament, though in less spectacular fashion than their opponent today. They remain undefeated and untied in the tournament, but required a stoppage time masterpiece from captain and world's best player Lionel Messi to get past Iran in group play, have won every game by just one goal, and then needed penalty kicks to get past perennial bridesmaids Holland in the semi-finals. Messi has scored 4 of Argentina's 7 goals in the tournament so far and he played a perfect assist for the winner against Switzerland in the round of 16, so the German defense will have its own challenge limiting the touches and space for the Argentine forward.
Check out SB Nation's excellent WC Final preview here.
It's a big day. Germany vs Argentina. Europe vs South America. Adidas vs Adidas(!). Berlin vs Buenos Aires. Müller and Messi striving for the Golden Boot. It's even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI vs Pope Francis. Either Argentina will add a third Cup on the home turf of its bitter rival, or Germany will be the first European team to win a Cup on South American soil. Today's final presents a classic matchup. We'll see if the game itself can live up to it.
Welcome to our World Cup Final Open Thread. Chime in with your favorite and your thoughts along the way.
and as always...GO BRUINS!