Argentina could make over-confident Germany pay
Early party talk is risky and could backfire against underdogs Argentina, says our man in Brazil
GERMANY v ARGENTINA
(Monday, 3am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141, StarHub TV Ch 223 & MediaCorp okto)
Thomas Mueller and Phillip Lahm's confidence tiptoed towards arrogance this morning (Singapore time).
Germany's sense of destiny is understandable, resulting from a steady progression that began with their Under-21 European Championship in 2009, and promises to peak at the Maracana on Monday morning.
A week ago, Joachim Loew feared the sack. Today, Germany expect a fourth World Cup at the expense of the underdogs Argentina.
The South Americans are almost seen as cannon fodder; a necessary obstacle to clear as the efficient Germans systematically complete formalities before taking the trophy back to the open-top bus parade in Berlin.
Mueller even advised supporters to make preliminary party plans.
"I've been telling friends back in Germany on the phone that we're going all out here, so that you can keep having those big barbecue parties in Germany to celebrate during the best time of the year in Germany," he said.
It's all too much too soon.
Loew can almost be pictured doing his best Han Solo impression, leaning across to Mueller and shouting, "Kid, don't get cocky".
Mueller is 24, almost the same age Orson Welles was when he began pre-production on Citizen Kane. Welles peaked too soon and was haunted for the rest of his career by his failure to scale a similar height again.
Like Citizen Kane, Germany's devastating display against Brazil will be revered and replayed for decades to come, admired for its artistry and studied for its near-technical perfection.
Welles couldn't escape the shadow of his youthful genius; the brief, serendipitous moment when creative forces aligned to illuminate a masterpiece.
The World Cup witnessed its version of Citizen Kane when Germany defeated Brazil 7-1; an instant classic that now has the potential to both inspire and inhibit Loew's craftsmen.
The Germans are caught between a rock and their hubris. Even their normally cautious players cannot countenance failure. They are getting carried away.
"We're here to win the World Cup," insisted Lahm. "We all enjoyed watching the (Argentina-Holland) semi-final on TV and it didn't matter to us at all who we'd play in the final."
Germany's press conferences are mirroring their recent performances; they do not feel particularly German.
After three successive semi-finals and no silverware to show for it, there was a suspicion that the carefully engineered, hand-reared generation of Bundesliga babies had sacrificed aggression for enterprise; the Die Mannschaft malevolence of Rudi Voeller, Lothar Matthaeus and Oliver Khan replaced by the pretty patter of Mesut Oezil.
Well, what a difference a 7-1 victory makes. Accusations of a brittle mindset have given way to Churchillan defiance.
They'll fight them on the beaches of Copacabana if they have to, but the Germans aren't leaving without the trophy.
But the line between supreme confidence and smugness is always drawn in the softest sand, almost impossible to make out.
Germany are making the most of their newfound home support - Brazil's deeply entrenched anti-Argentina sentiments always leaning towards Loew's trophy favourites - but they are not facing the Selecao. They are facing Argentina.
And La Albiceleste could hardly care less. The Copa America shaped their mental fortitude. South American antagonism is a routine spectacle here. A hellish atmosphere is not only expected, but also welcomed. Adversity is an elixir for Alejandro Sabella's scrappers. Hell is home.
Until Germany humiliated Brazil, Argentina captured any romantic hearts that didn't already belong to Neymar. Lionel Messi's quest for immortality offered the most compelling narrative; a single-character page-turner.
But the semi-finals came up with a Hitchcockian plot twist. Messi was sidelined as Argentina suddenly became the Millwall of the tournament. No one likes them any more. They don't care. They are Argentina; revelling in their underdog status and adopting a siege mentality against Teutonic apologists.
They are taking on 11 Germans, 200 million Brazilians and a touch of arrogance among opponents already making trophy-winning party plans. That's just the way they like it.
Obviously buoyed by global expectation, Germany can probably be forgiven for their excessive flag-waving.
But it's a red rag to the bullish Argentinians.
In Thomas Mueller’s 12 World Cup appearances, he has scored 10 goals and assisted six more.
Lahm: It doesn't matter who we play
Germany captain Philipp Lahm and forward Thomas Mueller sounded supremely confident this morning (Singapore time) that their team would be able to neutralise Argentina's Lionel Messi and win the World Cup on Monday morning.
Sounding at times as if they had already won the match, the two players told reporters at their team base that Germany have more talent, more experience, an extra day's rest and more than enough confidence to beat Argentina the way they did in the 1990 final and the quarter-finals in 2006 and 2010.
"We're here to win the World Cup," said Lahm. "We all enjoyed watching the (Argentina-Holland) semi-final on TV and it didn't matter to us at all who we'd play in the final."
Lahm said Germany players not only have more experience in the latter rounds of the World Cup that will help on Monday, but also every player on the team has played in the finals of the Champions League, German Cup or cup final in England.
"The experience we've got all the way through our team is definitely an edge for us," he said.
"A lot of our players have experience in important final matches with their clubs and it doesn't always matter if they won or lost. I think that deep experience everyone on our team has is definitely important for a tournament like this."
Mueller (above) and Lahm even answered questions at times about how they planned to celebrate the victory.
Mueller said that there was an abundance of confidence in the team with their "golden generation" that have made it to at least the semi-finals of the last four World Cups and the last three European Championships.
"I've been telling friends back in Germany on the phone that we're going all out here, so that you can keep having those big barbecue parties in Germany to celebrate during the best time of the year in Germany," said Mueller, who also had no doubt about the outcome.
"I'm not expecting that we'll be ahead 5-0 at half-time again like against Brazil, even though that would be nice," added Mueller, reflecting a growing smugness and optimism back home in Germany that it's no longer a question of "if" but only a matter of "by how many goals" they'll win.
"It could end up being a tight match like against Algeria or France. But it doesn't matter. We know what we have to do."
Mueller offered his ideas on how to stop four-time World Footballer of the Year Messi.
"We've all got to stay on his heels and try to keep disrupting him. As soon as he gets away from one of us, the next guy has to jump in and be on him and so on until we get the ball back," he said.
"It's important to defend collectively as a team against him but without losing sight of the other Argentina players." - Reuters.