Resurgent Argentina looking to further upset home nation 0
Argentina's Martin Demichelis (left) and Ezequiel Lavezzi laugh next to teammate Lionel Messi (right, bottom) during a training session ahead of their World Cup final against Germany, in Vespasiano, Brazil on Thursday, July 10, 2014. (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)
Brazil’s nightmare World Cup continues to get more horrifying.
Not only did Brazil crash out of its World Cup in the most embarrassing fashion, a 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals, but now it must suffer even more misery as its most-hated rival Argentina plays for the world championship.
It won’t be a pleasant Sunday for Brazil. In the late afternoon, La Albiceleste will step onto the hallowed ground of Brazil’s Maracana Stadium.
The ultimate indignity to this soccer-mad nation would be to have Argentine superstar Lionel Messi strutting around the stadium holding the trophy high above his head.
During the final, Brazil will have to listen to the not-so-gentle refrains of Argentines singing “Brasil, Decime Qué Se Siente” which, translated, means “Brazil, Tell Me How It Feels?”
Throughout Argentina’s semifinal against the Netherlands, which the Argentines won on kicks from the penalty spot, there were confrontations in the stands between the few Brazilian fans there and Argentine supporters.
The arguments usually ended with the Argentines holding up seven fingers to remind Brazilians just how many goals Germany scored.
The song praises Messi and aggravates Brazil fans even further with its lyrics, which say “Maradona es más grande que Pelé,” which translates into “Maradona is better than Pele.”
It’s a song that’s been sung throughout this World Cup and Brazil will hear it repeatedly through Sunday and beyond.
If Brazil was in a deep depression after their loss to Germany, an Argentine will leave this country weeping for weeks.
Of the four teams in the semifinal, Argentina was the one team most people felt had no chance of making the final.
Argentina deserves full credit for their resiliency and their ability to adjust what they needed to do to win.
It became clear early on in this tournament that Argentina simply would not have the offensive horses to compete with the top teams. They had Messi who could win games in a moment on his own, and that’s what he did.
But Argentina simply couldn’t rely on the little magician.
So, coach Alejandro Sabella rejigged his formation so it would be difficult for the opposition to score and he would take his chances on finding a way to make things work offensively.
It may not have produced exciting soccer, but it produced winning soccer.
Argentina didn’t give up a goal against Switzerland, nil against Belgium and then shutout the Netherlands over 120 minutes. Not only did they shut down the Netherlands, they also prevented any clear-cut scoring opportunities.
This was not supposed to be the way it went down.
During Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers, Sabella said he “put his face in his hands and prayed” whenever the opposition would run at his team’s defence. The bench boss did not have great belief in his defence.
Thus, Argentina relied on Messi. The talk has been all about Messi.
In the last three games, the talk has been about several other members of the Argentine side, mostly its defenders.
Martin Demichelis and Ezequiel Garay have had strong World Cup campaigns at the back and seem to be getting better each game.
But there is one man who has tied everything together. No one expected Javier Mascherano to play this well.
Mascherano has played a key role as a defensive midfielder slowing down opposing forwards before they can really start to run. He was tireless against the Dutch and, as the game wore on, his play frustrated Holland to an extent that they wouldn’t run at him.
Sunday's final is the sixth time a European and South American team have met in a Latin American World Cup final. All five of those encounters were won by teams on this side of the ocean.
Germany will be going into the game as favourite.
At this point, the way Argentina is playing at the back, there really is no favourite.