Germany and Argentina: who will win?

NEVER in the history of the world cup football tournament have there been such vastly different results in the semi-finals: Germany mauled Brazil 7-1 while Argentina scraped through via a penalty shootout over the Netherlands, neither team being able to score in two hours of play.

Argentina’s win came after what was surely the most boring game of the tournament to date, with the number of scoring attempts less than the number of digits on one hand. The tie-breaker was not tense either; the very first Dutch attempt was saved and provided an indication of which way it would go.

The German win was remarkable in many ways; it was the highest number of goals scored by any team in a semi-final over the 20 tournaments held so far. The eight goals scored by both teams was also the most goals scored in a semi-final.

It was not the biggest margin of victory in the Cup; that was nine goals and occurred on three occasions. Hungary defeated South Korea 9-0 in 1954, Yugoslavia beat Zaire 9-0 in 1974 and Hungary hammered El Salvador 10-1 in 1982.

But despite the attacking game that the Germans played, they would not have got anywhere near the 7-1 win had it not been for some abysmally bad defending by Brazil. The Brazil stand-in captain, David Luiz, was all over the place and could be faulted for six of the goals.

Hence one should not expect any score in the final close to the five that Brazil scored in 1958 to defeat Sweden. That 5-2 win also marks the biggest margin of victory, a record shared with France (3-0 over Brazil in 1998) and repeated by Brazil in 1970 (4-1 over Italy).

Germany (winners 1954, 1974 and 1990, the first two as West Germany) has the best record of any country at the World Cup and if it were to win on Sunday, it would be level with Italy which has four wins (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) in the Cup. Brazil has five wins (1958. 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) and is on its own.

Argentina has shared the spoils in its World Cup finals battles with Germany, winning in 1986 through the odd goal of five – scored by Jorge Burruchaga off an inspired defence-splitting pass from Diego Maradona – and then losing in 1990 in what must be ranked as the worst World Cup final of all-time. It was marked by the sending off of two Argentine players and Germany won via a dubious penalty awarded when Jurgen Klinsmann dived in a manner that would put a swan to shame.

Germany is favoured to win and that is not surprising given the imperious way in which it entered the final. But Argentina is a tricky team to beat at the worst of times so nothing can be taken for granted.