Jan Molby

Germany have best players and best team, but Messi can make a classic final

Jan Molby

View photo


Germany have better players, and work better as a team. But will they win the World Cup final? You just don't know.

Joachim Loew's side have really played themselves into form over the course of this tournament. Guys like Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos have been outstanding, and now Philipp Lahm is back at full-back the team looks much better balanced than it did in the opening few games.


On top of that they have, in Manuel Neuer, a man who is the best goalkeeper in the world. And by some distance.

But I still think the match will be incredibly tight. World Cup finals almost always are, of course - but even though Germany have all the buzz around them, Argentina have an incredible chance to pull off the biggest coup in their footballing history: winning the World Cup in Brazil.

Over in Europe we almost always miss how big a deal the football rivalry between Argentina and Brazil is. It's as big as any rivalry in club football, and the chance to put one over their arch-enemies on Brazilian soil will be a mouthwatering prospect.


And they've every chance of doing so, because no team at the World Cup has looked harder to beat. Their goalkeeper Sergio Romero looks rock solid and the back four untouchable - even Martin Demichelis, so patchy for Manchester City last season, has been excellent. And then there's the fabulous midfield in front of that back four: they've been so effective that the danger has rarely got as far as the Argentina defence.

It's funny: before the World Cup I really thought that Argentina would have a fantastic chance of winning, simply because I believed that their squad would score a lot of goals.

Talk about being right, but for the wrong reasons: they've only come this far because their defence has been immense. Just three goals conceded all tournament, and two of those were in their final, dead-rubber match at the end of the group stage. That's some record - even if it's a shame they've not matched that effort at the other end of the pitch.

The reason that they've not scored many is simple, of course: Lionel Messi. He's had a very quiet tournament, enlivened by several astonishing moments when he's done something incredible to pull them out of a hole. You can't underestimate that contribution, but at the same time he's a shadow of the player he was, say, three years ago.

He doesn't look right, and hasn't done for a long time. I'm really beginning to wonder what motivates him. With Cristiano Ronaldo it's simple: personal glory. But for Messi? Would being on a winning World Cup team be enough for him, despite him having a quiet tournament personally? Maybe it would, but I can't help wondering if there's more to it for him - and the possibility of matching Maradona's World Cup win in 1986 might be what he needs to inspire him to deliver on Sunday.

We'll have to see, but at the moment he's been kept out of the World Cup. Part of the problem is that teams are finally getting used to handling him, because he's only ever had one way of playing: go straight at his opponents. It's worked for him for seven or eight years, but there are signs that he has now been found out a bit. Though it's difficult to do, you can prepare for Messi: keep things tight, then as soon as he's on the ball you come down on top of him with two or three players to stop him getting up a head of steam.

That's brought a major problem for Argentina. They've unapologetically built this team around Messi, learning the lessons of 2010 in South Africa when he was just a cog in the machine, and a totally ineffective one at that.

This time, everything is being routed his way - and that's been to the detriment of all the other players on the side. Angel di Maria has been feeding off scraps, Gonzalo Higuain has looked a desperate man, and Sergio Aguero - who I think is a quite outstanding player - has barely even got onto the pitch.

Yet their goal drought could break against Germany, simply because the Germans will be going for it - unlike the Dutch, whose sole tactic seemed to be stopping Argentina from playing. On Sunday, Argentina will have chances to attack - and just as Algeria and Ghana showed, Germany are vulnerable to good attacking play. Considering the quality of players at Argentina's disposal, they could easily score several times.

As for Loew's team? Well, they'll still be on a high after crushing Brazil. I always thought they would win comfortably, but a comfortable 2-0 or so. There was something about the match that reminded me of Liverpool destroying Arsenal in 20 minutes during the last Premier League season; like Arsenal, Brazil always looked like they might have that sort of frailty which can sometimes see a team implode completely. But it was a total shock to see it happen in a World Cup semi-final - and it will mean Germany head to the Maracana with confidence pouring out of them.

All of this does raise hopes for a classic final - and God knows we need one, because it's been a few years since we had a real cracker. How about a 3-2 scoreline like we saw between these same two sides back in 1986? That'd do!

View comments (20)