It’s a battle between two of the most decorated nations in World Cup history. Three-time World Cup champion Germany will face two-time champ Argentina in Rio de Janeiro this weekend for a chance to earn global bragging rights for the next four years.
Here are five reasons to tune in to this World Cup finals showdown, which begins TODAY at 12 p.m. Arizona time on ABC15:
1. The rubber match. In 1986, Argentina won its second-ever World Cup championship by knocking off then-West Germany 3-2 in the finals. In 1990, the West Germans returned the favor by shutting out Argentina 1-0 in the championship match and earning third World Cup title.
Neither team has won a World Cup title since those respective matches, so it’s only appropriate that they face each other to settle their tiebreaker. Although Germany had an easy time dispatching the host Brazilians in the semifinals (see below), Argentinian fans will undoubtedly outnumber the German faithful on Sunday, and no European team has ever won a World Cup played in the Americas.
2. Germany’s offense vs. Argentina’s defense. The Germans made World Cup history on Tuesday by laying a 7-1 beat-down on Brazil – the most lopsided loss for any World Cup host nation in the history of the tournament. The win gave Germany 17 goals in six World Cup matches, an average of nearly three goals per game.
But Argentina hasn’t allowed a goal in any of its three matches in the knockout stage, shutting out a trio of talented European clubs – Switzerland, Belgium, and the 2010 World Cup runners-up, the Netherlands.
Last season’s Super Bowl reminded us that defense often wins championships. Will the same hold true on Sunday, or will Germany’s offense prove to be too much to handle?
3. The Maradona factor. In Argentina’s 1986 World Cup championship run, team captain Diego Maradona scored five goals, including the infamous “Hand of God” goal in a 2-1 quarterfinal win against England.
The continuity: Maradona’s daughter, Giannina, is the ex-wife of Argentinian forward Sergio Agüero, a top goal-scorer for defending English Premier League champions Manchester City. Agüero has struggled with injuries throughout this World Cup, but he helped Argentina defeat the Netherlands in Wednesday’s semifinal match with a penalty-kick shootout goal.
Agüero and Giannina separated last year, but they have a five-year-old son together. It would be quite a story to see the father of Diego Maradona’s grandson be the hero against the Germans on Sunday, just as Diego was against West Germany 28 years ago.
4. Youth vs. experience. With an average age of nearly 29 years, Argentina is the oldest team at this year’s World Cup. Meanwhile, Germany is the sixth-youngest squad (average age: 26.3 years), and that includes 36-year-old striker Miroslav Klose, who set a record by scoring his 16th World Cup goal on Tuesday.
The Germans have played wiser than their years would suggest throughout the tournament. But will they be humbled on Sunday by the elder statesmen of this year’s World Cup?
5. Messi. Considered by many to be the LeBron James of the soccer world, forward Lionel Messi has been held scoreless in Argentina’s last three games, in part because opponents have been paying special attention to him lately.
But it seems unlikely that Messi, who scored four goals in Argentina’s three group-stage matches, will be held in check much longer. Few players are as dangerous in open space and on free kicks as Messi is, and even a small window of opportunity may be enough for him to score his fifth goal of the tournament on Sunday against Germany.