World Cup: Germany and Argentina face date with destiny
CNN — It is the scenario Brazil had always feared -- the $11 billion party where the neighbors come round and trash your newly spruced up home.
Anybody but Argentina, that is the message which is heard loudest in Brazil ahead of Sunday's final against Germany in Rio de Janeiro at the Maracana stadium.
Not since 1986 has Argentina triumphed in the World Cup, but that wait could be over should Lionel Messi and co. see off the Germans.
Brazil was humiliated by Germany 7-1 in the semifinal -- but an Argentine World Cup final victory might just trump that as an exercise in despair.
After defeating the Netherlands on penalties, Argentina is targeting its a third World Cup win after reaching its fifth final.
In 1978, Argentina, which hosted the tournament, defeated the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time in the final in Buenos Aires to spark spectacular scenes of celebration.
Mario Kempes was the hero, scoring twice against a Dutch side which had lost at the same stage four years earlier against the Germans.
Eight years later, Argentina, led by Diego Maradona, reached the final once again where West Gemany was the opposition.
In a tight game, Maradona's wonderful pass released Jorge Burruchaga to fire home a dramatic 84th minute winner as Argentina prevailed 3-2.
The Germans side, coached by Franz Beckenbauer, got its revenge four years late when it won 1-0 in the final at Italy 1990.
Andreas Brehme's late penalty won a game marred by Argentina's ill-discipline and the sending off of two of its players.
Maradona, who was then playing at Italian club side Napoli, was left in tears as the Germans danced on the field of Rome's Olympic Stadium with the trophy it had so badly coveted for a third time.
It would be 20 years until the two teams met again in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Maradona, in his role as coach, watched on in horror as his side was thrashed 4-0 and star player Lionel Messi failed to sparkle.
Thomas Muller opened the scoring with Miroslav Klose, now the World Cup's all-time leading goalscorer, adding two and Arne Friedrich the fourth.
It is Muller which Argentina will have to watch at the Maracana on Sunday with the Bayern Munich star enjoying another impressive tournament.
The 24-year-old has already scored five goals in Brazil and is one away from joining Colombia's James Rodriguez as the top scorer on six.
Germany, which was beaten in the semifinals in 2006 and 2010, last reached the final in 2002 where it was beaten by Brazil.
"We've got to give our all on Sunday," Klose told reporters. "I know how it feels to lose a final. I want to lift that trophy into the air."
Many of this current crop have grown up together with the likes of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, midfielders Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil all progressing from the youth setup.
Six of the team which won the European Under-21 Championships in 2009 are set to start against Argentina with Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels all in the defense.
While Joachim Low's side produced a spectacular performance to dismantle Brazil, it has not had a particularly easy ride to the final.
After thrashing Portugal 4-0 in the opening fixture, it was forced to come from behind to secure a 2-2 draw against Ghana.
A nervy 1-0 win over the USA ensured it finished top of Group G and booked a last-16 tie against Algeria.
While Germany was widely expected to win, it was only after extra time that it managed to find a breakthrough.
Substitute Andre Schurrle and Ozil scored the goals and although Algeria got one back late on, the Germans held out for a tense victory.
The quarterfinal against France, played in the heat of Rio, was a rather turgid affair with Hummels' early header enough to secure a 1-0 win.
The 7-1 win over Brazil was achieved after Germany raced into a 5-0 lead by the interval following a mediocre defensive display from the host nation.
So poor was Brazil's performance that Muller revealed how the German players made a decision to ease off in the second half so not to embarrass its opponent.
"With the score the way it was, we said we should avoid being arrogant and to refrain from humiliating the opponent," he told reporters.
"But that's something obvious. Yes, there was this agreement and it came from the players themselves."
There's little chance of Germany letting up against Argentina when the tournament's top two go head-to-head.
Alejandro Sabella, who will leave his role as coach after the final, has led his side through to the final following a hard-fought campaign.
In all of its three group games, only one goal separated Argentina from its rivals.
After beginning with a 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Argentina was made to sweat until the very last minute against Iran before Messi curled home a stunning winner.
Against Nigeria, it was given a real fright before edging home 3-2 courtesy of Marcos Rojo's close-range effort.
Having topped Group F, Argentina progressed to face Switzerland which was defeated by a goal just two minutes before the end of extra-time.
Another 1-0 victory secured a semifinal place as Gonzalo Higuain's strike ensured Belgium was put to the sword.
The semifinal showdown against the Dutch was a dull affair with neither side managing to produce its best football.
Sergio Romero, the Argentine goalkeeper, became the hero after saving two penalties in the shootout before Maxi Rodriguez struck the winning kick.
It sparked wild scenes of jubilation, not just in Sao Paulo but across Argentina where 40 million people celebrated the nation's Independence Day with extra fervor.
"Brasil, Decime Qué Se Siente" --- translated to "Brazil, Tell Me How It Feels" -- is the song that has been sung throughout the tournament by Argentine fans confident of their team's success.
Much of Argentina's success will depend on Messi -- a man who has already scored four goals in the tournament and will captain the side in his 93rd international appearance.
Messi's achievements are well known -- 381 goals in 466 matches for Barcelona, three European Champions League titles and six Spanish La Liga triumphs only tell half the story.
Now he is aiming to add to his 42 international goals by inspiring Argentina to the biggest prize of all -- and the one which will surely make him one of the greatest players of all time.
No European country has ever won the World Cup in South America -- if Messi gets his own way, that statistic won't change any time soon.
As for millions of Brazilian football fans, who had so desperately sought a sixth world crown, Sunday is the party invitation they had could have done without.
Rizzoli to referee final
When it comes to famous football referees, Pierluigi Collina -- now retired -- might be the most famous of them all.
FIFA chose another Italian, Nicola Rizzoli, to take charge of Sunday's final.
The 42-year-old architect from Bologna refereed three games prior to the final, including two involving Argentina, as well as the 2013 Champions League final.
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