The day is upon us. Argentina vs. Germany, "Messi vs. The Machine," legacies are on the line. This is is so much more than what happens on the field. The outcome in Rio will not only effect how each country prepares for 2018, but how the world views each of these nations. One team earns bragging rights for four years, and one is forgotten forever. It's that simple. Let's look at the Argentine side:
Greatest Strength - Lionel Messi
This one is a no-brainer. He's the fastest player on the pitch, may have the best ball skills of anyone in the world, and he can hit upper-90 on either side of the net, with either foot, seemingly whenever he wants.
Still, plenty of men have had the skills, but only a select few have become true legends of the beautiful game. One thing is clear, Lionel Messi will always be harangued if he doesn't lead his country to a World Cup victory in his international career. What's not clear is whether Messi will have another chance to advance this far in his prime. It could be now or never. Maradona got it done in 1986 in a victory over West Germany. Is the writing on the wall for the Barcelona superstar to follow suit, and take over as the official Argentinian icon?
Glaring German Weakness - everyone not named Messi
On the German side, no one man can mark the great Messi. In fact, no club in the world has a defender that talented. Expect Germany to throw added pressure at him whenever the ball gets possession. The Netherlands used the same kind of approach, and limited Messi to just one touch in the attacking third throughout the entire 120 minutes of action. Even so, Messi was able to break the coverage for a superb crossing opportunity.
Most have been quick to criticize Argentina's back-line, which historically has been the bane of their scoring attack as broken possessions interrupt their offensive rhythm. But if you've been paying attention this year, you'd know that they have actually been quite effective especially as one of the stingiest defenses in the tournament. The blue and white have conceded just three goals in six World Cup games. That's an eye-popping statistic for any nation, not to mention they're coming off of a shutout in the semifinal against the high-powered Dutch.
On the other hand, the Argentines have scored a mere 8 goals in 6 games, half of which were scored by Messi himself. But Messi will need help up front to open up space for Messi. Unfortunately for Messi, attacking midfielder Angel di Maria is officially listed as doubtful after suffering a thigh injury in the quarterfinals, but the outlook for him playing is bleak at best. Where does that leave Messi in terms of support? It's on Higuain, Lavezzi, and Aguero to take advantage of the space behind the German defenders. There can be no more sitting back, deferring to the captain carry the team to glory. Every championship team needs role players. It's time to fill those roles.
That about wraps it up folks. Expect a pro-German crowd as the Brazilians probably don't want a neighbor to carry the day. Coverage on SnapCall of the 2014 World Cup Finals starts at 2:55 PM ET. Join the crowd and let your voice be heard!