Few question the status of Lionel Messi as an all-time great of the beautiful game. Those who poke holes in his legacy cite his failure to lead Argentina to a major trophy despite sweeping all silverware at club level with FC Barcelona.
His moment to crown one of football’s greatest ever careers is tonight at the Maracana at 4pm (10pm Ugandan time) when he lines up against Germany. These two teams shared and split finals; in 1986 Diego Maradona’s Argentina triumphed before Germany avenged in 1990.
Argentina beat West Germany in Mexico before the Lothar Matthaus-inspired Germans earned revenge over Argentina in Italy.
Germany are now attempting to become the first European side to win the World Cup on South American soil.
They won’t be short of supporters; Brazilians will be desperate to see Germany lift the World Cup. The thought of Argentina lifting the World Cup at the Maracana, the spiritual home of Brazilian football, is making the host national edgy.
The 2014 final will be a showdown between a genius against a magnificent side.
Messi has carried Argentina to the finals with spectacular displays and although he was shut out in the quarters and semis, his presence on the field is enough to have opponents daunted.
Germany, the team that eviscerated Brazil, is the one that has sent shockwaves world over. Their midfield is high on chemistry and low in imprecision.
They have no Messi in their ranks but the combination of Bastian Schwensteiger, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller in the middle is a joy to behold for purists. This will be a showdown between the irresistible force (Germany) against the immovable object. The Argentines have discovered a new-found solidity that hasn’t let in a goal since Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa breached their defence twice in the group stages.
Javier Macherano and Lucas Biglia have provided midfield protection for their defence where Ezequiel Garay has been a bedrock of doggedness. Like in all finals, coaches Alejandro Sabella (Argentina) and Joachim Low will preach restrained aggression. The last thing the watching world will be a final messed by an early dismissal.
The final could be decided by a lapse in concentration, a singular moment of brilliance, a free kick or a corner. No one knows where the trophy is headed. What we do know is that history will be rewritten come full time.