We’ve made it. Five weeks and 61 soccer matches later, it’s down to the final two: Argentina and Germany. The Germans have not lost on their path to the championship match, while Argentina has been tested throughout. This will be the third World Cup final matchup between the two teams. They each have one win. On Sunday, we’ll find out who is going to tip the scales and become the 2014 World Cup Champion.
Here are five things to look for in the final match:
M & M’s: Messi vs. Muller
Thomas Muller and Lionel Messi are the top scorers for their respective teams in this World Cup, but they both also happen to be in the running for the tournament’s Ballon d’Or award. None of that will matter when these two stars hit the pitch Sunday — guiding their teams to victory is most important. Look for Muller to draw attention from Argentinian defenders as he puts pressure on them from all parts of the field. And keep an eye on Messi’s free kicks. He has one of the most lethal shots on goal, and the more penalties Argentina can draw the more opportunities Messi will have to show that off.
Germany is coming off a 7-1 rout of Brazil in the semifinals that allowed some of the starters to head to the bench early. Argentina, on the other hand, endured an exhilarating and stress-inducing penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands. That means they played 30 more minutes than the Germans, who come in with an extra day of rest to begin with. Substitutes with fresh legs will play an important role as the game wears on for Argentina.
Home Field Advantage (Sort of?)
Argentina is Brazil’s South American neighbor, and because of their close proximity Argentinian fans will be out in droves to support their team. The only group that might feel more affected by this than Germany supporters is Brazilian fans. They will not be happy to see a sea of blue and white take over their home stadium on Sunday.
Protect This Net
All eyes will be on Messi and Muller, the stars in this matchup, but don’t forget about the guys in the box. Argentina’s Sergio Romero has proven that head coach Alejandro Sabella’s decision to bring him to this World Cup was a good one. Romero made two huge saves in the shootout against the Netherlands, and he leads all tournament keepers in saves. Germany’s Manuel Neuer has turned in three shutouts this World Cup and hasn’t allowed more than two goals. Both nets will be difficult to penetrate in this match.
Di Maria’s Return?
Messi can’t beat the German team by himself, and the Dutch proved that when he is kept under control, Argentina has a hard time generating offense. Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain are both good options, but Angel Di Maria’s presence was definitely missed in the semifinals. If he can return from the thigh injury he suffered against Belgium, Argentina will be in a much better position.
When the final whistle blows, who will be the 2014 World Cup champion? Check out SI Kids’ editors picks for what country will walk off the pitch with the gold trophy. And let us know who you think will win the World Cup in the comments section below!
For more World Cup coverage, check out SI Kids' Guide to the 2014 World Cup!
Photos: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images (Messi), Jamie Squire/Getty Images (Muller), Julian Finney/Getty Images (fans)