RIO DE JANEIRO -- Germany is not simply coming to the World Cup final off the biggest semifinal victory in World Cup history.
Coach Joachim Low said Sunday’s final against Argentina was not even the biggest challenge that he has faced in his career.
German football has been working up to this day for a decade, and Low is not afraid.
“I have no fear whatsoever because I know it is going to be a match between two teams who have had fascinating duels in the past,” he said on Saturday at Maracana Stadium, adding that it would be an “additional joy” to be crowned the first European team to win a World Cup on Latin American soil.
One of only two teams to reach every World Cup it was allowed to enter, Germany seeks its fourth World Cup trophy as Argentina vies for its third in a historic rematch of the two: Their last titles were both won over each other, Argentina 3-2 in 1986 and Germany 1-0 in the following tournament.
“Two teams are going to face each other at exactly the same level,” he said, adding that they have gathered the necessary self-confidence to win in light of the last matches.
They return to the historic Maracana after beating France 1-0 here in the quarterfinals and devastating host country Brazil 7-1 on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.
“And we know how strong the opponent is. We have respect. But we believe if we can tap into our potential and if we impose our game, we will win.”
Low said Argentina was versatile and better organized than in 2010 -- when he led Germany to knock the side out 4-0 in the quarterfinals -- and can either play hard defense or counterattack as needed. He said he expects the team to play for possession and attack positively.
“I think Argentina can play both styles. It’s a team that can defend early and put pressure on the opponent, and sometimes they try to attack rather quickly,” he said. “And sometimes again they just sort of fall back and wait. This is also one of their great strengths. They have a good defense.”
German players stretch during a training session of Germany in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 12, 2014. Germany faces Argentina for the 2014 soccer World Cup Final on Sunday. (AP-Yonhap)
Germany and Argentina come to the final as respectively the best attacking and best defending teams of the tournament. While possession-focused Germany has been involved in three of the seven highest-scoring games, Argentina demonstrated its defensive prowess on Wednesday, keeping out powerful Dutch strikers including Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie to a scoreless draw to win 4-2 in penalty kicks.
But he also said strikers such as captain and striker Lionel Messi and Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria were “wide awake,” waiting at the front for long balls.
“They have shown very well they can be very stable with eight, nine players behind them and then counter,” he said. “So it could be that Argentina tries to be an obstacle for us and then fall back. We have to look forward to that.”
This team, with seven players from the Bundesliga’s top club Bayern Munich, is often hailed as being the best generation of German players yet, representing the fruits of a decade of reform. Low said the Germans have been traveling the world for the last few years, watching international football, looking for the “little things” and new tricks that would help win matches and learning from their mistakes.
Argentina’s coach Alejandro Sabella had on Wednesday praised the opponents for their mental poise and “certain South American touch.”
If the Germans lost Sunday, they would be disappointed, but Low said this team and German football nonetheless has a future beyond this final and he sees no problems looming.
“I believe that we as a team are mature. Over the last few months and during this tournament we have shown what we can do, how well we can play,” he said. “And then over the last few years, we have been marching forward and forward and even if we are defeated, which I don’t think (will happen), nothing will crumble.”
By Elaine Ramirez, Korea Herald correspondent (firstname.lastname@example.org