RotoWire Partners

The Clean Sheets: Previewing the World Cup Final

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird is the Senior Soccer Editor for RotoWire, as well as a fantasy football and college basketball contributor.

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 10:32am
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: The Clean Sheets - World Cup Final


We've made it. The World Cup final is set, as Germany will face Argentina in the biggest game on planet Earth this Sunday.

The Germans absolutely rocked hosts Brazil in the semifinal, winning 7-1. While Brazil always faced an uphill battle without its two best players, Neymar and Thiago Silva, the Samba Boys were completely embarrassed by the 30th minute, when Die Mannschaft had already barreled out to a 5-0 advantage. Given the magnitude of that match, the overwhelmingly lopsided proceedings made for the most shocking soccer result I've witnessed.

So now Germany enters the final confidently clicking on all cylinders. In contrast, their opponents Argentina needed penalty-kicks following a scoreless 120 minutes to see off the Netherlands in the other semifinal.

That tie was tediously tactical, which certainly proved draining on both players and the viewing audience. We anticipated potential offensive fireworks with Lionel Messi, Robin van Persie, and Arjen Robben leading the way, but instead we watched something closer to Javier Mascherano versus Nigel De Jong and Ron Vlaar in a defensive struggle.

Previewing Germany-Argentina, I believe Joakim Low's men will finish as champions. With perhaps the world's best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer and proven top-class defenders, Germany is always difficult to score on. That stability is boosted by the fact that Germany dominates possession. With midfielders like Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira driving play forward, wide men Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller provide cutting edge in the final third, where no player in World Cup history has been as lethal as striker Miroslav Klose.

I know you picked Argentina to claim the prize heading into the competition, so have you seen enough to keep that prediction?

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 10:49am
To: Nick Pitner
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - World Cup Final


I think if I had picked anyone but Argentina at the beginning of the tournament, I'd probably be all over Germany right now in the final. What they did against Brazil was downright shocking. The loss of Neymar was huge, but not having Thiago Silva in the back was the clear undoing for the Brazilians.

David Luiz was put in control after being given the captain's armband and he should be absolutely ashamed by his display. His postmatch tears only reflected what a nation felt for 90 minutes while watching him play. How Jose Mourinho got £50 million for him from Paris Saint-Germain is beyond me.

It's almost as if Brazil figured the only way they were winning the match was with a 1-0 scoreline and as soon as Muller scored in the 11th minute, they had no Plan B.

Speaking of Muller, he's got 10 World Cup goals now in his career. Oh, and he's 24 years old (25 in September). Let's just say my money is on him passing Klose for the all-time record either in Russia or Qatar (#FIFA).

Argentina have played six matches so far and I still don't know what to make of them. While the Dutch tactical plan was clearly to reduce the attack, barely getting eight shots off (five on goal) with Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Sergio Aguero is beyond me.

That being said, they also limited the Dutch to only three shots on goal, while holding van Persie shotless.

Of course I don't think they'll shut the Germans out, but I'll still take them for the win. Give me 2-1 in favor of Argentina with a brace from Messi and a consolation from Muller.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 11:30am
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - World Cup Final


If Messi indeed propels his nation to a World Cup victory in Brazil, what a legendary achievement that would be. With that in mind, I think the Maracana Stadium in Rio will be decidedly in favor of Germany winning.

Messi's only touch in the penalty area versus the Netherlands came on his penalty-kick conversion. Essentially, Nigel de Jong was assigned with being Messi's shadow no matter where he went, which is something Bastian Schweinsteiger might be asked to do for Germany.

I think if Argentina gets midfield man Angel di Maria back from injury, that would be a huge boost for Messi and Co. Di Maria is a tireless worker and was man of the match in this year's Champions League final, so he's no stranger to the biggest of stages. Also, if Argentina are to win, Higuain is going to have to pester Germany's back-line, because Aguero just doesn't seem healthy enough to do so.

Argentina's attackers get all the ink, but Mascherano is arguably their second-most important player behind Messi. If he can interfere with Germany's possession play, Argentina could be dangerous on the counter.

Nonetheless, I have to pick Germany. Like Spain in past years, Germany seems to be in the midst of a "Golden Generation", with older players like Klose, Schweinsteiger, and Philipp Lahm blending with the latest class of Muller, Ozil, Kroos, Mats Hummels, Neuer, etc. As a score prediction, I'll say 2-0 to Die Mannschaft.

Before Sunday's Final, the third-place game of Brazil against the Netherlands will take place Saturday. How do you think Brazil will respond after their semifinal evisceration?

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 1:36pm
To: Nick Pitner
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - World Cup Final


You'd have to imagine (hope) that Brazil comes out with more fire than they did against Germany. Silva returns, although the lack of scoring thanks to Neymar's injury remains.

It should be a classic tale of attack vs. defense, with Robben and van Persie theoretically wanting to show that they should be in the World Cup final and not the third place game.

Are Brazilian fans going to rally around their players after the horrendous showing they put on in the semifinal or will the crowd be sporting the Oranje?

I hate consolation games. With that, I think the Netherlands take this one 3-2.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 2:57pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - World Cup Final


I think Brazil's supporters will back their side, simply for pride sake. They can't abandon them and darken the black eye of the demoralizing semifinal loss. Similarly, Scolari's squad should be inspired to put their best effort forward and save face.

The Dutch have gone two straight extra-time matches without scoring, so even though Brazil's shape was egregiously stretched versus Germany, I think this contest could be relatively tame offensively. Then again, it is a consolation game, so both teams may throw caution to the wind in hopes of an entertaining exit. I'll predict Brazil to win 2-1.