In Argentina, there has long been a sense of dread regarding the possibility of facing Germany this month.
The South Americans have been knocked out of the past two World Cups by this particular European rival, and when they last reached the final, in 1990, it was Germany who defeated them.
History favours Joachim Loew’s side. Yet that is not the primary reason to believe Germany will have it all easy when they take on Argentina today. Although the Germans will be too strong; with Loew’s side during the past month having looked absolutely fearsome.
They have strength and experience through the entire squad. From Manuel Neuer, the imposing, impenetrable goalkeeper, to Miroslav Klose, the World Cup’s all-time record goal-scorer, Germany have a wealth of talent.
But it is in midfield where the final will be won.
Lionel Messi may be the best player in the world, but remove him from the equation and Argentina – missing Angel Di Maria through injury and Sergio Aguero only recently returning from injury himself – look short on game-changers.
In contrast, Germany have a conveyor belt of quality in the form of Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gotze, Sami Khedira, Andre Schurrle and Julian Draxler. All seven have the potential to spin a match on its head.
Kroos has been exceptional this month, floating around the spaces between the opposition’s defence and midfield.
Presumably, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano will be tasked with ensuring Kroos does not get the opportunity to slice open Alejandro Sabella’s side like he did against Brazil. On that evening in Belo Horizonte, the Bayern Munich midfielder was unplayable.
With Mascherano tasked with chasing Kroos, that leaves Thomas Muller free to drop a little deeper and be a nuisance.
In 12 World Cup matches, he has scored 10 goals and provided six assists. It is a remarkable return by a player who is 24 and surely destined to eclipse Klose’s 16-goal tournament record.
Any coach will tell you that winning is the best habit to maintain. Loew has not lost a match since August 2012, when his side lost a friendly 3-1.
The opponents that day were Argentina, but the comparisons must stop there: Ron-Robert Zieler, the stand-in goalkeeper for the injured Neuer, was sent off, and Muller was replaced in place of third-choice goalkeeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Today, with Neuer in goal, Mats Hummels and Arsenals’ towering giant Mertesacker at the heart of the defence, Kroos keeping Mascherano distracted and Muller causing problems, Germany will be too strong and too telepathic in their build-up play.
The last time the two teams met at the World Cup, the Europeans won their quarter-final 4-0. On form, such a result must be considered more than just possible.
After all this, do you really think Sabella’s men still stand a chance? Although the game of football isn’t mathematics and anything can happen, but on this one, the German machines will definitely prove a difficult puzzle for the Argentine’s to solve.