Sabella sweats on di Maria's fitness
Argentina hope special training session will get winger fit for final
GERMANY v ARGENTINA
(Tomorrow, 3am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141, StarHub TV Ch 223 & MediaCorp okto)
Alejandro Sabella will do whatever it takes to get Angel di Maria fit for the World Cup Final tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
The injured midfielder was sorely missed against Holland in the semi-finals, and his coach organised a unique training session for him this morning.
"Di Maria has a special programme that we have arranged for him," Sabella said at a press conference at the Maracana.
"We have planned some things just for him in training, that will test his fitness. Only after today's training session can we make a decision on whether he starts in the World Cup final."
Sabella's uncertainty underpinned his downbeat press conference.
In stark contrast to Germany's forthright pledges of victory, Argentina's thoughts on the game were strangely muted, with neither Sabella nor squad player Jose Maria Basanta looking or sounding particularly confident.
The coach spent the entire conference largely concealed by a baseball cap he refused to remove, even when his headset got caught in the brim.
His nondescript demeanour behind the microphone was markedly different to Joachim Loew's jovial optimism.
He focused more on his opponents than he did his own players. Lionel Messi wasn't even mentioned. Sabella was preoccupied with the Germans.
"We have to play a great space to have any chance against Germany," he mumbled into the microphone, his head permanently bowed.
"They cover space really well. We can't take too many chances. They have an extremely tough, very well-developed system.
"They pass really well between the lines, and use their wingers well. Really, we need to play the perfect match."
Had he praised the Germans any further, he might have forfeited the final.
Every comment had the undercurrent of pessimism; the underdogs were in no doubt about their status.
Sabella wouldn't even concede that serendipity might be on his side.
In 1986, Argentina defeated West Germany in the World Cup final with an industrious side reliant on one creative individual.
Sabella was in Brazil at the time, playing for Gremio. The omens would appear to be in his corner.
"I was living in Porto Alegre in 1986, it's true. I remember watching the game in Brazil," he said. "Let us hope the result can be repeated."
After Argentina relied on defensive caution to overcome Holland in a penalty shoot-out, they are not expected to line up any differently against Germany, acutely aware of the mistake Brazil made in opting for such an open, attacking approach.
And the quarter-final thrashing at the 2010 World Cup still haunts the senior players.
"I was not with them then, when they lost 4-0, but we made the mistake of conceding an early goal (after three minutes to Thomas Mueller)," he pointed out.
"We have got to try to avoid that this time. Many players are the same, but the circumstances are different. Our midfield is more solid and we have a better mindset."
Amid the gloomy atmosphere, an impassioned Argentine journalist pointed out that their country was celebrating their first World Cup final appearance in 24 years.
Surely, Sabella had a hopeful message for an expectant population.
"We'll give our best. We'll make sacrifices, work hard but keep our humility. We see the happiness and the joy that we are giving the people of Argentina. And the final result?
"We'll give our all for the jersey and for our country."
Sabella left on that rousing note. But he never once suggested Argentina could win the World Cup.
Who will win?
IT WILL BE GERMANY
Germany will not have a better chance of winning a World Cup. By far a better team than Argentina, and better subs to make a difference, too.
- Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand on Twitter
Germany have got what it takes to beat Argentina. Of course, the problem with many European countries is that they don’t produce enough strikers and then they come to the World Cup and they can struggle. And of course, it’s the opposite way round for the South Americans — they produce lots of strikers but not enough defenders. But that’s why I believe Germany have got the best team – because they have (Miroslav) Klose and (Thomas) Mueller, who can play up front as well.
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
IT WILL BE ARGENTINA
I think it will be a really tight game and I'm actually going for a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes and it might be decided by a bit of genius if it's going to be a win for either side.
But it's a World Cup final and teams are not going to want to lose - and the fact both could start with the same 11 shows you this could come down to fatigue. If it goes to extra time, I could see Argentina saying, 'Let's get this to penalties'. I'm saying 1-1 at full-time and Argentina to win on penalties.
- Former England and Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp
The logic says Germany. They are the better team. But the fantasy lies at the feet of Lionel Messi. It is written in the stars that he will win the World Cup for Argentina.
Messi is a man on a mission to deliver the World Cup. Having said Argentina from the start, and going with my gut feeling that Messi will turn it on, I think Argentina will get lucky.
- Former England manager Glenn Hoddle
I spoke to friends before Wednesday's game against Holland and I told them I was convinced Argentina would win on penalties. They said I was crazy, but I'm not - I knew that the longer the game went on, the better chance Argentina would have to win it. And they will do it again against Germany.
- Former Argentina midfielder and now Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone