2014 WC final

Head games: Remember the final’s first half? Christoph Kramer doesn’t

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Those who actively watched some of the World Cup final’s first half likely remember more than a man who was on the field for a half-hour of it.

Christoph Kramer was facing the thrill of the lifetime when he was called on to replace Sami Khedira in the starting lineup of Germany’s tournament title tilt against Argentina.

But a 14th minute elbow from Ezequiel Garay sent Kramer to the turf, and to the sidelines. He walked in two different directions on the way off the field before reentering. And after the 32nd minute, Kramer was off for good.

So what were his feelings when he was taken off the field in such a massive game?

Beats him.

From The Independent:

“I can’t really remember much of the game,” he told German newspaper Die Welt after seeing his team-mates beat Argentina 1-0.

“I don’t know anything at all about the first half. I thought later that I left the game immediately after the tackle. I have no idea how I got to the changing rooms. I don’t know anything else. In my head, the game starts from the second half.”

The fact that Kramer was allowed back onto the pitch is frightening and incredibly dangerous. Treatment and diagnosis of head injuries may be an always-developing thing, but anyone with two eyes and TV screen could see that Kramer was not right following the collision.

Surely his instincts took over and laid out his desires to come back into the game. Judging by his memory, we have no business trusting the minds of a men or women whose brains have bounced against their skulls (Put that way, it makes sense, no?).

Let’s just be glad Kramer came off before we saw something absolutely horrific; Athletes who have played on after suffering a concussion have experienced many awful repercussions, including the ultimate one: death. Read up on the work done by the Sports Legacy Institute and you’ll understand a bit more.

It’s suggested that the human brain needs at least two weeks to recover from a concussion… not two minutes.

Germany “one step away” from making their dreams come true

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It’s been twenty-four years since Germany last lifted a World Cup trophy. Not too long, in the grand scheme of things, but the last time they did so the nation was still a divided country. In 2002 they came closest, losing out to Brazil in the final. The last two tournaments, they’ve collected the third-place medal.

But Euro 2004 marked a turning point for the Germany national team. Despite their success in the 2002 World Cup, they failed to make it out of their group, collecting just two points. Four players remain from that team: Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.

Then there’s the rest of the “golden generation,” the steady flow of new talent coming from Germany’s decision to totally overhaul its soccer system over the past decade. Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller are just a few of the names that come to mind.

Yet all this talk of a “golden generation” will be in vain should Germany not lift the World Cup this evening. And captain Lahm knows it. He said:

We all know what’s at stake. Our generation has developed and matured over the years. We have many players who are pillars at great international clubs. We have shown that we prepare perfectly for tournaments. We are only one step away from making our dream come true and we are fully focused on the final so that we, at last, bring back the trophy to Germany.

Do you think Germany will claim their fourth Cup? Or will Argentina thwart them?

Argentina have Agüero, di María available for the final

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Argentina have received a boost ahead of this afternoon’s World Cup final against Germany. Ángel di María and Sergio Agüero are both fit, and could play a role in helping the side to the trophy.

The news isn’t all rosy, however. While di María, who’d picked up a thigh injury, returned to training yesterday, he’s unlikely to be fit enough to start. The Real Madrid man scored against Switzerland to put the albiceleste through to the quarterfinals, but came off against Belgium after providing a pass that allowed Gonzalo Higuaín to score the only goal. He played no role in the semifinal against Netherlands.

(READ MORE: PREVIEWING THE 2014 WORLD CUP FINAL)

Agüero, however, could well start. The forward came off after just 38 minutes played in Argentina’s eventual 3-2 win over Nigeria. He sat out the first two games of the knockout round, but returned in the 82nd minute against Netherlands.

Alejandro Sabella now has a dilemma. In the first game, against Bosnia and Herzegovina, he elected to go with a less attacking lineup, fielding five defenders. Argentina won, but certainly didn’t look their best. Yet since that game, the supposed Fantastic Four (di María, Higuaín, Agüero and Lionel Messi, of course) have yet to live up to their billing. The albiceleste have come this far by switching to a more organized, defensive system.

Will Sabella play it cautious? If so, Agüero could still start, stepping in for Ezequiel Lavezzi. If Argentina pin their hopes on this attack finally gelling, Agüero will of course play, but Lavezzi should remain in the lineup.

Either way, Argentina have a tough match ahead of them. It remains to be seen if they can come close to matching the Germany side that thrashed Brazil 7-1. Then again, they do have Messi, who is always capable of moments of magic.

World Cup Today: Fast Facts on the Final

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WORLD CUP TODAY: SUNDAY, JULY 13

The day has finally arrived. 32 days after this all started. 63 matches are behind us. Just a few hours are ahead of us. By the time the sun sets in Rio, Brazil’s World Cup will have come to an end.

Let’s not get too panicked about how we’re going to cope. Not just yet, anyway. There’s still time to revel in what’s to come…


THE FINAL: GERMANY VS. ARGENTINA

Location: Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
Time: 3 p.m. ET, ABC
A CLOSE LOOK AT GERMANY | A CLOSE LOOK AT ARGENTINA | PREVIEWING THE FINAL

How they got here
Argentina
Did you know Argentina have yet to go behind in a match? That doesn’t mean they haven’t struggled, though. It looked as though things were going to be all too easy when, in their first match, Bosnia and Herzegovina put in an own goal to give Argentina the lead before five minutes were out. But it took until injury time for Lionel Messi to break down Iran, then Nigeria gave them a thrilling match that ended in a 3-2 win for the albiceleste.
Winning the group set up a date with Switzerland, who made it their mission to shut down Argentina, thus taking the game to extra time. A goal from Ángel di María — set up by Messi, of course — put them in the quarterfinals. Gonzalo Higuaín scored early, and despite a Belgium fight-back, Argentina left with a 1-0 win.
Which was more than they managed against Netherlands. That was one of the few genuinely boring matches of this tournament, with both sides desperate to hang on. Penalties came, Louis van Gaal had no more substitutes to use, and Argentina came away with a special treat.
A date with Germany.

Germany
Germany caused very few surprises when winning their first match 4-0, despite the fact that their opponents were Portugal. Of course, Pepe getting himself sent off didn’t help, but Germany were already up 2-0 at that point. It was surprising, however, when they could only get a point from Ghana, but we did all appreciate the thrilling 2-2 draw. They could’ve gone through top of the group with just a draw with the United States, but Germany decided to be mean and win anyway.
Many thought it would be easy for Germany to beat Algeria, but that proved to be a sore underestimation of the Fennec Foxes. André Schürrle finally broke the deadlock just after the start of added extra time, to the dismay of everyone not wearing a Germany kit. Then came France, another game which turned out different than expected when France barely put up a fight, exiting with a 1-0 loss.
Everyone knows the ending to this story: Germany smashed Brazil 7-1 in the semifinal. Manuel Neuer still managed to be irritated when his defense allowed an injury-time goal to Oscar, however.
Think Argentina are worried?

History
Whoever lifts the cup this evening will have done it before — well, the country will have won, at least. Germany have claimed the title three times, while Argentina have won it twice. Since that last win came in 1990, however, the current players have yet to lay their hands on the World Cup.

That 1990 title was claimed by West Germany — with a win over Argentina. Yep. And at the previous World Cup, it was Argentina beating West Germany to lift the Cup. Yes, this match will provide bragging rights beyond the usual “we’re the champions of the world!”

It’s worth noting as well that Argentina were eliminated by Germany in each of the last two tournaments, so a win for the albiceleste may be particularly sweet.

What they’re saying
Argentina captain Lionel Messi: “The dream is not over yet.”

Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger: “We know how to handle things.”

Short, sweet and to the point. But who will prevail?

Prediction
Argentina keep playing the organized, defensive game that brought them this far.
Germany attempt to find their way through but find themselves stifled.
We get extra time.
An exhausted Argentina defense succumbs to the wonder that is Thomas Müller.
Germany win 1-0 (a.e.t.)

Schweinsteiger: Argentina is “a pack of Wolves”, led by Mascherano

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The World Cup final is upon Germany and Argentina, and one of the latter’s star is preparing to battle a “pack of wolves.”

Bastian Schweinsteiger thinks his team will prevail in Sunday’s championship match, but is fully aware of the challenge presented by Argentina and its hardened veteran, Javier Mascherano.

While many point to the “team vs. superstar” debate posed by Germany’s date against Lionel Messi, Schweinsteiger is wary of the Albiceleste‘s threat.

From SkySports:

“Javier Mascherano is the leader of a pack of wolves – as he showed with the tackle against Arjen Robben to deny him a goal,” said the 29-year-old.

“You see what kind of attitude he has for his country. It will not be easy for us. Argentina are a very, very good team who are deservedly in the final. They have world-class players with Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero.

“We have to be patient but if we show our quality on the pitch and we have the necessary cleverness then we can beat this team.”

I’d personally love it if my team was described as a “pack of wolves”, so I certainly consider it a compliment. Mascherano has been a stalwart for his nation in the tournament. He’d have to net a few goals to have a look at the Golden Ball award, but there are few players more deserving of acclaim if Argentina pick up a win on Sunday.

Schweinsteiger also said that pressure will not be a factor for Germany, which has been there, done that.