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Messi, Aguero and the happy underdogs: Why Argentina will win the 2014 World Cup final

The Argentina who showed up to this year's World Cup were 'not the Argentina side people were expecting,' writes Thomas Woods, 'but that is what makes them so dangerous in the final'.

Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi of Argentina stretch during a team training session ahead of Sunday's 2014 World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tolga Bazoglu / EPA / July 9, 2014
Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi of Argentina stretch during a team training session ahead of Sunday's 2014 World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tolga Bazoglu / EPA / July 9, 2014

Germany are the favourites to win the World Cup, but Argentina are pretty happy to be underdogs, according to striker Sergio Aguero.

“Germany were always the favourites, along with Brazil, to win the World Cup,” he said on Friday. “They continue to be so now. We need to play our own game and it suits us that all the pressure is on them.”

Argentina came into the tournament with the expectation that they would be one of the more attacking teams.

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They had the “Fab Four” – Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain – and they were in one of the weaker groups, featuring Nigeria, Bosnia and Iran.

Argentina arrived in Brazil having topped South American qualifying with 35 goals in 16 games. They lost twice with a defence that conceded 15 times, a record bettered only by ­Colombia.

On that basis, it is fair to say they have underwhelmed in Brazil.

They could have dropped points against Bosnia, who played the more fluid football in their opener. Messi magic saved the day for a 2-1 win.

They should have dropped points against Iran, who defended brilliantly. Messi magic saved the day again for a 1-0 win.

You can chalk the open 3-2 win over Nigeria down to opponents chasing goals and victory, and thinking that qualification for the last 16 depended on it.

Then came the knockout stages. A 1-0 extra-time win over Switzerland in the last 16 followed by a 1-0 win over Belgium in the quarter-finals, where they failed to create a significant chance after scoring.

The 0-0 draw in the semi-final against the Netherlands was a victory for both defences.

This is not the Argentina side people were expecting, but that is what makes them so dangerous in the final.

There is an assumption that they will have to play defensively to contain a German side capable of putting seven goals past Brazil.

But Argentina have not conceded in the knockout stages. Their defence is solid and, before Brazil, Germany’s attack struggled. They failed to score in normal time against Algeria before netting from a set piece against France.

So there seems to be two ways Argentina will win the final.

Scenario one, they play to expectations, defend against Germany’s “total football”, produce a similar game to the semi-final, hit on the break to win 1-0, or take it to penalties. It has been done many times before.

Scenario two, Messi comes up trumps and Argentina’s much-vaunted attack finally clicks.

For all Germany’s quality, they do not have a player like Messi. As we know, he can open up any defence with his dribbling skill. There is a chance he could line up with Higuain, Aguero and Di Maria, if the latter two are fit.

That is a scary combination if all four fire. Germany’s defence was severely tested in the 2-2 group-stage draw with Ghana and the Algeria match. It is the team’s weakest point and Argentina have the weapons to exploit it.

Tactically, Germany have laid all their cards on the table with the incredible win over Brazil, Argentina know what they are dealing with, even if it might be unstoppable.

On the other hand, Argentina may still have a hand to play. They should be capable of taking their game to another level when it matters most.

twoods@thenational.ae

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