MATCHDAY PREVIEW - After a FIFA World Cup™ full of twists, turns and surprises, there will be a touch of the familiar as the competition reaches its climax. Three-time winners Germany and two-time champions Argentina will lock horns for the third time in the Final, as both vie for supremacy at the Maracana.
The tournament showpiece will inevitably spark memories of 1986 and 1990, when the two giants of the game recorded a win apiece. La Albiceleste struck the first blow with a 3-2 victory in Mexico to clinch their most recent World Cup title, before Die Nationalmannschaft exacted revenge with a 1-0 success in Rome four years later. Their third Final meeting will be a World Cup first, with only Brazil and Italy having also met twice at this stage, in 1970 and 1994.
Germany, meanwhile, will be gracing the decider for a record eighth time, and their mission will be to become the first European side to triumph on South American soil – echoing the feat achieved on rival terrain by Brazil at Sweden 1958.
Joachim Low's men will certainly not be short on confidence in Rio de Janeiro, having stunned fans far and wide with a football masterclass in their 7-1 semi-final win over the hosts. They strolled through with a spellbinding combination of ease, power and efficiency, plus an impressive team ethic that owed much to their large Bayern Munich contingent. Germany have started six Bayern players in each game so far, and the strong club links running through the spine of the team have paid dividends.
The European hopefuls will likewise benefit from an additional day's rest compared to Argentina, who were taken to extra time and penalties in their last-four tie. However, what they do not have is Lionel Messi.
Some have suggested the talismanic forward is not operating at the peak of his powers, but the figures speak for themselves. Not only is he the sole player to have scored more than once from outside the area – registering three times from distance – he has also completed more dribbles than anyone else (82) and stands alone with his quartet of Budweiser Man of the Match awards.
Argentina can likewise count on Javier Mascherano, whose 552 passes so far tell only half the story of a tenacious and courageous player capable of moving mountains for the sake of his team. The 30-year-old has a talent for inspiring his colleagues too, as proved the case with goalkeeper Sergio Romero before the semi-final shoot-out against the Netherlands.
Germany-Argentina, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 16.00 (local time)
Did you know?
Hat-trick target: A Germany victory would hand Europe the honour of becoming the first confederation to win three consecutive World Cups, Spain having won in 2010 after Italy's 2006 triumph. Heading into the Maracana showpiece, UEFA boasts ten victories overall to CONMEBOL's nine.
Old hands: Should Argentina come out on top, they will become the oldest squad to lift the Trophy. The average age of Alejandro Sabella's 23-man party was 28 years and 336 days when the tournament began on 12 June – slightly older than current record holders Italy, who had an average age of 28 and 262 days in 2006.
Home discomforts: For the fourth successive World Cup, the victorious team will not be the hosts. In fact, only six sides have made the most of home advantage over the 19 previous editions: Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), England (1966), West Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and France (1998). Brazil have now joined Mexico as the only sides to fall short twice on home soil.
Double digits: Germany's Thomas Muller has joined an elite group of 13 players to have struck ten goals or more at the World Cup, a list that includes four of his compatriots: Helmut Rahn (ten), Gerd Muller (14), Jurgen Klinsmann (11) and all-time record holder Miroslav Klose (16). That might help explain why Germany have scored more goals at this level than any other team, their 223 efforts just edging them ahead of Brazil on 221.
Check it out
Exactly 24 years to the day before Germany swept Brazil aside 7-1, Die Nationalmannschaft were downing Argentina 1-0 in the Final at Italy 1990 thanks to Andreas Brehme's late penalty. As the two sides prepare to renew acquaintances, FIFA.com takes a look back at that match, which ended with Franz Beckenbauer tasting glory as a coach after managing to keep Diego Maradona in check.
That will not be the game on Maxi Rodriguez's mind, though, since the Albiceleste veteran has his own more recent motives for revenge. As the midfielder explained to FIFA, he was part of the Argentina sides eliminated by Germany in both 2006 and 2010 – and he wants payback.
So many factors will determine the outcome at the Maracana, but who do you think will be celebrating at the final whistle and why? What will be the keys to the encounter, and will Lionel Messi or Thomas Muller enjoy more influence on proceedings? Have your say on 'Who will be world champions?'
On this day
Snow was falling on 13 July 1930 as the first two games in World Cup history got under way at 15.00 local time in Uruguay. Capital city Montevideo hosted both matches and, while France faced Mexico in the small, 5,000-seat Estadio Pocitos, USA tackled Belgium in the more spacious surroundings of the 23,500-seat Estadio Parque Central on the other side of town. France's Lucien Laurent broke new ground on 19 minutes when he buried the maiden goal at a World Cup finals, volleying in a cross from Ernest Liberati – who likewise made history as the first provider of an assist. Les Bleus ran out 4-1 victors and USA downed Belgium 3-0, before Uruguay eventually beat Argentina 4-2 in the showpiece.
Play and win
With the action set to draw to a close in Brazil, each of the games being run in conjunction with the 2014 World Cup is about to end as well. So this is your last chance to take part in McDonald's FIFA World Cup Fantasy, the Budweiser Man of the Match vote, Castrol's World Cup Predictor Challenge, Panini's Online Sticker Album, the Kick-Off Ball Contest presented by adidas, Your 11 presented by Hyundai and the Hyundai Young Player Predictor. Get involved now and you could win some fabulous prizes!