Saturday, July 3, 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010 Preview: Germany vs. Argentina

A tasty rematch from the 2006 World Cup lies in wait for football fans when two of the most impressive teams of the tournament go head to head in the form of Germany and Argentina.

Many might argue that this would be a more fitting final to this competition, but fate has decreed that instead one footballing behemoth will go home early.

The last game was decided by a tense penalty shoot-out which (unsurprisingly) the German's won, largely due to Jens Lehmann's steely nerves, quicksilver reactions, and a little forward planning.

I'll compare the constituent parts of the two teams and try to predict whether one side has the edge over the other.

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer vs. Sergio Romero.

Both keepers are young inexperienced at this level. Neuer is probably the better handler, but Romero is not as culpable of charging off of his line.

Both have good reflexes and can make excellent stops. Both have slightly questionable defences in front of them, but the German defence solidified against England while Martin Demichellis still looks a little unsteady. Expect both of them to have to earn their pay against strong attacking teams.

Defence: As previously mentioned, both defences have been questioned, but in 'typical German' fashion Germany's defence has started to function better as a unit. The Argentinian defence are suffering down the right, where Demichellis and the inexperienced Nicolas Otamendi have been the cause of shredded Argentinian nerves.

Both have holes and I believe that Mertesacker might struggle with the pace of the Argentinian forwards, while Klose knows Demichellis' weaknesses better than anyone, having played alongside him at Bayern for years. Expect goals.

Midfield: This will be a key duel. Both play deep strikers and look to pack out midfield with passing options. Messi and Oezil will look to drop back and collect the ball to cause problems and both teams have the pace to launch serious counter-attacks should a team lose the ball in a dangerous area.

Aging master Juan Sebastian Veron will look to dictate the tempo and flow of the game, and his opposite number in the form of the young pretender Bastian Schweinsteiger will look to do the same. These two midfielders will be the outlet that the defence will look to pass out to, and expect many attacks to come from these two deep pass-masters.

Both have capable lieutenants in the form of Sami Khedira and Javier Mascherano. Khedira will offer more threat going forward and offer an able defensive outlet, while Mascherano will be his typical self, snapping at opponents heels and being a general nuisance.

Attack: This is where both teams excel. The likes of tournament top scorer Gonzalo Higuain and ever dangerous Carlos Tevez will have to be watched carefully, and given no time to set themselves to shoot.

The most obvious threat is Lionel Messi, who has underperformed by his own incredibly high standards so far but is always capable of creating a moment of pure class which can change a game.

On the Teutonic side of things, the free flowing combination of Miroslav Klose, Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski, and Thomas Mueller will have to be defended against better than England managed or they have the potential to cause all sorts of problems for he Argentinian backline.

The Managers: How can we ignore the key influences of the managers.

Maradona has gone a long way towards persuading his critics (and there are plenty of them) that he might in fact be a capable manager.

Admittedly, with the resources at his disposal it makes the job somewhat easier, but he has fostered a real team spirit as witnessed by the over-the-top celebrations and affectionate kiss a player will receive from him. Might this man emulate the cool, calm, and calculated Franz Beckenbauer and win the World Cup as both player and manager? Only time can tell, but he is on the right track.

Speaking of cool and calculated Germans, current German manager Joachim Loew might also spring to mind. The well-dressed manager has had to deal with a hellish injury crisis, and he has dealt with it superbly. His trust in youth is absolute and he is known to be a meticulous planner. Expect clever tactical manouveres designed to keep key Argentinian's out of the game, and expect a tactic aimed at pace against the likes of Veron, Samuel and Demichellis. He has delivered more than many expected, and it is not out of the question that he does so again.

Conclusions: This game is balanced on a knife edge. Germany have lost, while Argentina have won every game so far, but Germany did progress from a far tougher group. The German's are just hitting top gear while for the Argentinian's this will represent the first true tough test of their World Cup. Both teams have players capable of changing a game, and I do think that the first goal will be crucial as it will leave the opposing defence open to counter-attacking football, which both teams are expert in.

This game is too tight to call, and has the potential to be the most exciting game of the World Cup so far, something we've heard before. Lets just hope it can live up to the billing. I back Oezil to shine again, and Higuain to either be prolific or profligate. Either way, bring on the game!

I don't have the nerve to call a prediction, but do you? Have I missed out an important danger-man? Let me know below.