Game On: Lineups for World Cup final, will Argentina or Germany prevail?

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The 64th and final match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil takes place on Sunday, as Argentina and Germany square off in the World Cup final.

Who will be crowned as the new World Champions?

Germany are going for their fourth title, Argentina their third, as two proud soccer nations meet at the world famous Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in what promises to be a sensational match.

FOLLOW LIVE: Germany vs. Argentina 

Lionel Messi leads a well-drilled Argentina, while Germany’s stacked side will go for a team-first approach to overcome their South American rivals.

These sides have met in the 1986 and 1990 finals, Argentina prevailing in ’86 and Germany in ’90, and this is the first-time in history that the same nations have met in three WC finals. Both teams are unchanged  from the semifinal wins.

Will Germany and Argentina dish up a fitting finale to what’s been a marvelous tournament in Brazil?

LINEUPS

Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Höwedes; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Müller, Kroos, Özil; Klose

Argentina: Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, Lavezzi

Talking points

Will Lionel Messi join the greats of the game?

Messi has won just about every trophy ever invented… except for one. The World Cup. If you ask most people, they will say Argentina’s captain is already on a par with Diego Maradona and Pele as a true great of the game. However one small question mark always pops up. what about Messi’s performances for Argentina at the World Cup? Messi… he hasn’t won a World Cup? Messi has scored four times in Brazil this summer and keeps popping up at crucial times to save the Albiceleste. Can Messi be Argentina’s hero on Sunday and become a true soccer god at the Maracana?

Team first over individual talent?

Germany are full of confidence after their 7-1 drubbing of hosts Brazil in the semifinal. They are well-rested and sense that their time has arrived to win their first World Cup since 1990. Above all that, the German players work together and are a well-oiled machine under Joachim Low. With Kroos, Muller, Ozil and Neuer all coming through the ranks together, plus the experience of Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Klose, can they put in one more stunning team performance to overcome Argentina’s individual brilliance?

Expectation

This match should be a tight game, as both teams are extremely well-organized. If someone scores early then this game could open up, as Argentina and Germany possess mercurial attacking talents. However, when Germany and Argentina met in the 1990 final it was a dire match as both nations were too scared to lose in a 1-0 win for Germany. In 1986, Argentina won 3-2 in a pulsating clash. Let’s hope the latter game is replicated at the Maracana.

One blogger’s prediction

It it hard to bet against Germany, especially as their ruthless machine destroyed Brazil and has yet to click out of second-gear (the round of 16 clash against Algeria aside) for most of the tournament. However it just feels scripted that a scrappy Argentina team, led by Lionel Messi and supported by tens of thousands of Argentina fans, is going to win the tournament in the backyard of their biggest rivals Brazil. Tiredness will play a part for Argentina, but I fancy them to bag a 2-1 win and grab their third World Cup title.

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”

Would Real three-peat be most impressive feat in UCL history?

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When Franz Roth’s 57th minute goal gave Bayern Munich a 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne in Glasgow on May 12, 1976, it marked the last time a club won three-consecutive European Cups.

Oddly enough, Ajax turned the trick in the previous three seasons to Bayern’s run, and Real Madrid won the first five from 1955-60 when the tournament required a side of its ilk win only four ties. By 1976, the tournament began with the Round of 32.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

While there were certainly reasons the tournament was more difficult, consider that travel was far more taxing on the body and officiating far less advanced if even impartial, what Real Madrid would do this weekend would be an incredible achievement.

Winning three-straight competitions in any of the elite league is insane, and the UEFA Champions Leagues is especially bonkers.

Yes, an injury to Neymar made the PSG defeat a little less impressive, but consider that Real has advanced to the final while playing a murderer’s row (especially in relation to their opponents). Juventus was next, and then Bayern Munich. Now, Liverpool.

While no one, maybe ever, should cry for Real Madrid, this third run is more impressive than the first two in that the club simply isn’t as strong as previous iterations. That’s evidenced by their relatively poor performance in La Liga play, finishing almost 20 points back of rivals Barcelona and three behind Atleti.

Real sold nearly $100 million worth of players this offseason than it bought, with Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos the biggest names through the door while Alvaro Morata, Danilo, and James Rodriguez skipped town.

Who knows what’s in the water in Real, but its veteran squad continues to produce big results. Cristiano Ronaldo is 33. Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric 32. Marcelo and Benzema 30.

If Real holds off Liverpool, there will be some myopic notes about how it should’ve been expected to win the match, but that ignores that in a competition as deep as ever, Real took on all comers and triumphed for the third-straight year.

In doing so, they are likely achieving the most impressive feat in modern UCL history, certainly at least since Porto won the 2003-04 tournament under Jose Mourinho… and that was a one-off.