Sunday, July 13, 2014

The final: Argentina

I support Argentina and I am wearing my Argentina shirt today. It will be a long-held dream to see them again lift the trophy, as I still remember their last triumph with nostalgia. 1986; when football became my passion.
That said, I have been very critical of their play in this tournament. They are not that offensive side that many expected with the players they have. Perhaps it is understandable: this tournament has proven that headless attack is not a way to go, and Argentina has unfortunately, much before the tournament, been struggling with defensive weakness. In fact, I always thought that defensive weakness would be their problem. However, they have proven far better, if not careful, in defense. Marco Rojo and Martin Demichelis have been surprisingly solid, and Sergio Romero in goal has been one of their best players. Besides this Javier Mascherano has come out as one of the best players of the tournaments, playing splendidly as a holding midfielder.
The apparently strong attacking has been more of a problem. While we have seen glimpses of brilliance in Lionel Messi, he still looks tired, far from his best form, where he would be fearful to the Germans (remember his five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012?). Sergio Aguero's eternal injuries has made him into a non-player in the tournament; not only absent, but even poor when he has come in. Ezequiel Lavezzi has been a better replacement, and worked harder in the last matches than in the first, where he seemed to think he was still on vacation. The same came be said of Gonzalo Higuain, who worked like a horse against the Dutch and scored the winner against Belgium. However, Higuain is still a poor striker; he was in Real Madrid, and he still is one who needs ten chances to score a goal. You don't get ten chances in a World Cup final!
Angel Di Maria has been one of the better Argentines, and his absence will be felt, although Benfica's young Enzo Perez has been a strong replacement. He does not provide the same offensive prowess as DiMaria, but has given the defensive midfield depth, giving space to the attackers.

Although I support Argentina, Germany are big favorites. But they do have weaknesses, and the team that exposed them most in this tournament were none other than Algeria, a side that fought bravely and had a style that is somewhat similar to Argentina.
Germany has played the entire tournament with a high defensive line. This also gave Ghana golden opportunities in the first round, and forced the brilliant Manuel Neuer to play almost as a sweeper. It worked but it was risky. Throughout the tournament, Argentina has faced very compact back lines that have given little space to their strikers, perhaps except for Nigeria. The Argentines do have the potential to exploit the high German defensive line.

Anything can happen in a final! I hope Argentina wins, but know it will have to be the match of their lives! The Germans are an amazing team!

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