Germany's extraordinary goal haul in Belo Horizonte has been dominating the headlines this week, and while it was Miroslav Klose that made history, breaking the all-time World Cup goalscoring record by hitting his 16th goal in the 7-1 win over Brazil, it was the Germany midfield that made the difference between the sides.
Both Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira have seen their names banded about throughout the duration of the World Cup, linked with big-money summer moves - the former in to and the latter out of Real Madrid - and while the quality they possess was already widely known, performances in Brazil will only have increased their stock.
Still only 24 years old, Kroos plays with a confidence and collectedness that does not befit his years, while his lengthy list of honours is more than most other players his age can boast.
Khedira, meanwhile, is marginally older at 27 and has won fewer trophies than Kroos, but his undeniable quality has been on show for all to see at this summer's tournament. If the duo replicate the devastating performances they put in against Brazil, they have every chance of adding World Cup winners' medals to their well-stocked trophy cabinets.
Khedira, oft considered little more than a perfectly capable ball-winning defensive midfielder, displayed just how extensive his talents are as he took up his role in what has become manager Jogi Löwe's first choice XI at the tournament, alongside Kroos ahead of Bastian Schweinsteiger in the deepest-lying central midfield position.
Khedira marauded from box-to-box in a way we haven't become used to seeing - though that was in part thanks to the freedom he was granted by Brazil's absurdly open back seven - as he registered a WhoScored.com rating of 8.49, having picked up his second ever World Cup goal in addition to a calmly placed assist for Kroos to score Germany's fourth of the night.
It was Kroos who was awarded WhoScored.com's man of the match award (with a rating of 9.84) having put in a nigh-on perfect all round midfielder's performance. Kroos scored twice from three shots, picked up one assist from two key passes and made two tackles, all while attempting more passes than any other player on the pitch (71) and finding a team-mate with impressive 93.0% success.
He was granted space to operate to such fine effect against Brazil, and Argentina will not allow him such liberty in Sunday's final. The man charged with limiting him will be the player who shackled Arjen Robben so effectively in the semi-final, Javier Mascherano.
The Barcelona man put in a heroic performance to keep the Dutch at bay, and is now the leading tackler at the tournament (28). It is no coincidence that Mascherano has been ever-present for an Argentina side that has now gone over six hours since conceding a goal and he will have his hands full on Sunday night.
While he makes bucketloads of tackles, against a player like Robben that is extremely useful, but Germany's biggest strength is their passing. Mascherano makes more than twice as many tackles (4.7 per game) as he does interceptions (2.2 per game) and he may struggle to get near the likes of Kroos, Khedira and Schweinsteiger as they move the ball at lightning pace to get forwards.
Three of the 2014 World Cup's best-performing midfielders do battle as the tournament reaches its climax on Sunday night at Rio de Janeiro's Estadio do Maracana. There is every chance that the winner of this battle will end up lifting the trophy as world champions come the end of the night.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.
- Sports & Recreation
- Toni Kroos
- Sami Khedira