Argentina (5-0-1) vs. Germany (5-0-1), 3 p.m. (ET)
07/13/2014 8:15 AM
07/13/2014 8:18 AM
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Germany and Argentina will renew their World Cup rivalry on Sunday when they meet in the final at the Maracana.
The two fabled nations have a history of squaring off in World Cup finals as they met one another in the 1986 finale and again in 1990.
In 1986, Argentina, led by Diego Maradona, edged West Germany for the title behind a late strike from Jorge Burruchaga.
But the Germans avenged the defeat in controversial fashion four years later as Rudi Voller earned a dubious penalty that Andreas Brehme converted with just five minutes left to play, giving the European nation a narrow victory.
It was Germany's third World Cup title and it would be another 12 years before Die Mannschaft would log another appearance in the final, a contest the European nation lost as Brazil triumphed behind a brace from Ronaldo.
Germany, which made history by becoming the first nation to make four successive appearances in the semifinals, returns to the title match after back-to-back third-place finishes and is looking to make the leap from bridesmaid to bride.
It was an eventful journey to the final for Germany, which emerged from the Group of Death and stacked half of the bracket to survive a brutal draw.
The Germans opened the tournament in style by cruising to a 4-0 defeat of Portugal. They looked vulnerable in a 2-2 draw with Ghana but managed to secure top spot in Group G behind their 1-0 defeat of the United States.
The knockout round began in somewhat unconvincing fashion as Algeria pushed Germany to the brink of elimination. A scoreless 90 minutes forced extra time, but Germany scored twice early on to advance with a narrow 2-1 victory.
The win resulted in a meeting with high-flying France, and a header from Mats Hummels proved to be the only difference between the two nations.
Germany moved on to the semifinals where it met Brazil for a rematch of the 2002 final, and it was one-way traffic as the Germans thumped the host nation in a 7-1 victory.
Miroslav Klose scored a goal in the emphatic win to make him the tournament's all-time leading scorer. But the 36-year-old, who has been on the losing end in a World Cup final, insisted that Germany must move on from its thrashing of Brazil.
"We enjoyed the game against Brazil, but we ticked it off after 24 hours," Klose said. "In the next game, we have to again play to the best of our abilities. It feels really awful to lose a final, so it's our time to win this one."
Thomas Muller has been pegged as the heir apparent to Klose given his penchant for scoring goals in the World Cup. The Bayern Munich man won the Golden Boot in 2010 and is one goal shy of James Rodriguez atop the scoring chart, but he is expecting a tough and cagey affair against Argentina.
"I don't know what kind of a game it will be (on Sunday), but I don't expect it to be 5-0 at halftime," the Bayern Munich forward said at a press conference. "That would be nice, but it's probably going to be tight like it was against Algeria or France."
Argentina's stout defensive showing thus far indicates that Muller is correct. La Albiceleste has conceded just three goals in the tournament, all of which came in the group stage.
The South American nation opened the tournament with a 2-1 defeat of Bosnia- Herzegovina thanks to a game-winning strike from Lionel Messi. The Barcelona man came to Argentina's rescue twice more by scoring at the death in a narrow 1-0 victory over Iran and bagging a brace in a 3-2 victory over Nigeria.
Despite failing to produce a goal in the knockout round, Messi proved he can still influence the final result without finding the net himself. He set up Angel Di Maria for a late winner against Switzerland in the round of 16 with a brilliant through ball, demonstrating his ability to thread the needle in crucial moments.
The goal sent Argentina through to the quarterfinals where an early strike from Gonzalo Higuain was all the nation would need to dispatch Belgium, setting up a semifinal clash with the Netherlands.
It was a tactical battle between the two nations as penalties were needed to decide a winner, and Sergio Romero proved to be the hero, stopping two attempts to see Argentina reach its fifth World Cup final.
The finale has been billed as the world's best player (Messi) facing the world's greatest international team (Germany). But according to striker Sergio Aguero, Argentina is happy to play the role of the underdog.
"Germany were always the favorites, along with Brazil, to win the World Cup," the Manchester City man said on Thursday. "They continue to be so now. We need to play our own game and it suits us that all the pressure is on them."
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