Just under a month ago, 32 teams started out on a path to join the elite club of World Cup Champions.
Two teams remain in pursuit of that goal, but both nations – Germany and Argentina – have multiple titles to their credit.
Germany reached the Final with the most unpredictable of performances, piling goal after goal on a stunned Brazilian team en route to a 7-1 thrashing.
The Argentinian team, meanwhile, snuck by a powerful Dutch side by the slimmest of margins: waiting out 120 minutes of cautious, scoreless play and settling things in penalty kicks.
So, with the Final looming on the horizon, which nation do you like to capture its first title in over two decades?
Germany started their campaign in Brazil with authority, drubbing Portugal 4-0 in their group stage opening and providing the margin of victory that would inevitably send Cristiano Ronaldo and his compatriots home before the knockout stage. A 2-2 draw to Ghana would provide the only blemish on Germany’s record thus far but the team would clinch the top of Group G by edging out former coach and World Cup hero Jurgen Klinsmann and his American side 1-0 in their opening round finale.
The Algerians would give Germany a scare in the round of 16, forcing extra time before Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil put away what would stand as a 2-1 victory. They would then ride an early header from defender Mats Hummels past a high-scoring French side in the quarters to set up their drubbing of the host Brazilians in the semis.
Along the way the Germans have seen one man write his name in the annals of World Cup history and another serve notice that he may be next in line. Miroslav Klose’s mark in the semifinal thrashing put him in sole possession of the all-time World Cup goal scoring record, one ahead of Brazilian great Ronaldo with 16.
Not to be outdone, however, is 24-year-old Bayern Munich striker Thomas Müller. After earning a share of the Golden Boot in South Africa with five goals, Müller has piled on another five and enters the Final one shy of an unprecedented second straight.
Argentina’s performance has been a study in doing just enough to win. Though they have won all six of their contests in Brazil, they have done so by just a single goal in each match.
The team emerged from a group devoid of titanic opposition, edging out Bosnia and Herzegovina in part thanks to a third-minute own-goal and Iran thanks to an unforgettable Lionel Messi free kick in second half stoppage-time. With the group hanging in the balance, the Argentines went back and forth with Nigeria in the opening round finale, eventually outlasting their African opposition in a 3-2 victory.
In the knockout round, however, the Argentinians have used lone goals to get past highly-ranked European opposition. Switzerland – the top seed in Group E entering the tournament – held them scoreless through nearly two hours before Angel di Maria broke through in the 188th minute. Against Belgium it was the opposite, with Gonzalo Higuain finding the back of the net eight minutes in to provide the match’s lone goal.
The question begs whether the team can find the firepower to match the German machine. Messi enters the Final tied for third in the competition with four goals and all eyes will be on the Little Magician to see if he can step up and add to his “Best Player in the World” argument when it matters most for his country.
A double-sided historical note to help you make up your mind: Germany has lost just once to Argentina at the World Cup and has ended Argentina’s tournament at each of the last two. However, Germany’s one loss came in the 1986 Final, the last time the nation was crowned World Champions.
So, who do you like?
Will the balanced German attack find its way through the Argentine defence to earn a first World title as a unified nation? Or, will Messi heed Diego Maradona’s claims as the future of Argentinian football and continue the trend of European World Cup futility in the Americas?
As always, it’s Your! Call.