The most memorable game of the World Cup could now ruin the final as a spectacle.Although undoubtedly a modern classic in terms of its shock value and significance, Germany’s incredible 7-1 battering of host nation Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals may now leave us with a cagey and cautious final in store this evening.
There have been some terrific and open games at this year’s finals, none more so than the bizarre scenes that saw Germany go 5-0 up in less than half an hour against Brazil to leave the footballing world stunned. It would always be hard to live up to that kind of wide-open, mad encounter, but what followed the next evening between the Netherlands and Argentina was undoubtedly the most disappointing game of the tournament.
There can be no two ways about it – the way Brazil crumbled served as a huge wake-up call to the other teams, and may do so for some time, as neither of the other two semi-finalists wanted to risk that kind of humiliation in such a big game.
After going through on penalties, Argentina will now be ready to try and stifle Germany, who will surely not be allowed the kind of freedom they were given against Brazil in the last round, with Argentine right-back Pablo Zabaleta admitting that that game has served as a warning for him and his team-mates.
“Even if you concede some goals before 15 minutes or 20 minutes you need to keep calm and keep playing in the same way as we have been doing for these six games,” he said. “A football game is just about 90 minutes. If you concede some goals and you try to score as soon as possible, you concede space at the back and you are finished. It was a lesson for us, the Brazil game.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who has been on the end of similar thrashings himself in recent years, also feels the Brazil game will be playing on other teams’ minds now, noticing that in general the games at this World Cup have got tighter as the competition has gone on.
“I think as the World Cup goes on and the games get harder then you are more likely to score less goals,” said the Gunners boss. “I believe as well that with Argentina vs Holland, what happened the night before had a psychological impact. When you see a team like Brazil get destroyed by 7, you start to think to yourself, ‘wait, that could happen to us’, and everybody is on the backfoot. Every team wants to then make sure that they don’t get punished like that and you could see that the next day there was no real drive to go forward.”
This could prove bad timing for tonight’s big game, which on paper looks like having the potential to be a classic. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Thomas Mueller and so many others, these two sides possess some of the best attacking players in world football, and should have offered us a fitting end to what has been one of the best World Cups for a long time. Now, however, a fear looks to have crept in, and neither side will want to risk being out of this match after twenty minutes.
One would fancy Germany to win the game with all their attacking talent and supremely confident, efficient playing style, but standing in the way of that will be a resolute Argentina side, inspired by their defensive leader Javier Mascherano. This is a group of players who would love to win the trophy in the land of their greatest rivals, and they won’t mind being less entertaining in order to do so.
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