AT ESTÁDIO MARACANÃ in Rio de Janeiro tonight, there will be tears… tears of a dream that came so close but eventually turned into an abyss. There are many who will take to the pitch and give their all knowing it is their last chance. Bastian Schweinsteigger, Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lucas Podolski in the Germany side have their last chance.
Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, Maxi Rodiquez and Martin Demichelis in the sky-blue and white stripes are also in their possible World Cups, while Messi has a golden chance he might never feel again unless he emulates Maradona who took Argentina to two straight World Cup finals.
Watching these stars play their game of their lives will include Russia President Vladmir Putin, who will be picking the World Cup baton from Brazil as the next host of the tournament. Putin also hopes to see how Brazil pulls off the final and ensure Russia does even better.
President Dilma Rousseff will play host as Putin is joined by soccer-mad Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez Kirchner is also a possible president to attend, along with a host of other dignitaries.
But when Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli blows the first whistle at 9pm, only the gods of Maradona and Beckenbeuer will be turning the cowries in favour of their respective sides.
History favours Germany and having humiliated hosts Brazil that much in the semis, it makes the onus weigh heavier. Argentina will have to rely on Messi to bring down the German machine.
In the six meetings in World Cup between the two sides, Germany have won three times. Those meetings had two finals; 1986 when a Maradona-inspired Argentina took Mexico by the horns to beat Germany 3-2, and in 1990 when a late penalty fell the ‘hand of god’ into tears.
Argentina has won just once, and two draws. This is their seventh meeting and the third time in a final, also a third consecutive World Cup meeting. Germany won 2006 quarter final on penalties, but thrashed the Maradona-managed side 4-0 in South Africa.
Can Messi inspire Argentina? Yes. This game is open. Argentina is resolute in defence, stronger than Germany especially when Mertesacker is playing. Also, Messi’s threat remains just that.
For the first time, I go against my side.
Argentina 2-1 Germany.