World Cup: Argentina-Netherlands, & Predicting the Finals Winner
Needless to say, yesterday’s semifinal was not a repeat of Brazil-Germany. In fact, it was more like what many people expected Brazil-Germany to be – a defensive, competitive, occasionally scrappy match that came down to penalty kicks.
And while Germany showed up to a water gun fight packing bazookas, Argentina-Netherlands was uncharacteristic of this World Cup for a different reason. We had seen other games decided by penalty kicks – that was nothing new – but few matches have featured such suffocating performances on defense. In those other games decided by penalty kicks, there were at least viable shots on goal. Threats that you thought might go in. Moments that made you gasp and then sigh. Yesterday? I yawned at least once.
For once, defense reigned supreme at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Neither team known for their defenses, Argentina’s shutout had to be the most impressive of the two. Argentina has always been about offense, and so far in this World Cup, they had let the likes of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria score on them. Not exactly offensive powerhouses. Oh, and ICYMI, Holland’s offense is a little better than Bosnia-Herzegovina’s. They feature guys vying for the golden boot at every World Cup; BH features guys that, well, aren’t. Weren’t. Never will. This isn’t meant to disparage other teams – I merely mean to underscore just how potent Holland’s strikers can be, and therefore just how impressive Argentina’s shutout was.
Looking ahead to Sunday, it’s hard to think Argentina-Germany will be anything other than underwhelming. Meeting for a World Cup record seventh time, these two teams know each other well. Meaning The Machine knows Messi well. And that doesn’t bode well for Argentina. Even with what Holland’s strikers bring to the table in elegance and creativity, they haven’t matched Germany’s dogmatic precision in this World Cup. The 36 year-old Klose is ageless, always in the right place at the right time, and Muller seems to find the inside post with every single shot on goal. Strip them of the ball, and you’re staring at the most technically-gifted and unyielding midfield in soccer. It’s not so much that Germany can shut Messi down – no team in the world has figured out the secret to doing that when the ball’s at his feet. It’s that Germany simply won’t allow him to touch the ball.
Argentina’s best chance is set plays. On those, Messi can exact his influence. But barring a lucky break, this match-up heavily favors Germany.
Prediction: Germany wins, 2-0.