RIO DE JANEIRO -- On the eve of the World Cup final, Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella said his team would have to be focused, fast and cautious to play “the perfect match” against favorites Germany.
"We must have great concentration. We have to … occupy spaces very quickly. We (can’t) risk the ball in areas where we cannot take any chances,” especially against a physical and tactical rival with such a strong mindset, he said on Saturday at Maracana Stadium ahead of the team’s final practice.
“(Germany) is a team that was always extremely powerful. They have a system of play very well developed,” he added, explaining that Germany takes advantage of the depth and width of the field so that wingers can attack through the flanks. “So many times, we need the perfect match.”
Sabella’s Albiceleste are coming up against the hardest offense in this World Cup, with the Mannschaft scoring 17 goals over six games. Two came in extra time against Algeria in the round of 16 and seven were against Brazil on Tuesday in the biggest semifinal victory in World Cup history.
Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi runs during a training session at the Sao Januario Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 12, 2014, on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match Germany vs Argentina. (AFP-Yonhap)
Meanwhile, with injured forward Sergio Aguero playing just 40 minutes since the group stages and Lionel Messi yet to score in the knockout rounds, Argentina’s star-studded offensive lineup has yielded the spotlight to a defense that has conceded just three goals in the tournament.
Sabella praised his players for improving the balance between a strong offense and defense, and covering spaces better especially on the sides.
“Previously we used to play with three midfielders, now we play with four,” he said. “Two (play) with offensive characteristics, but they occupy these external spaces in the field of play. And that has given us a greater balance.”
It has been 28 years since Argentina last won the final, when Sabella watched from his club in Brazil as a Diego Maradona-captained Argentina conquered Germany 1-0 in Mexico City.
But recent memory is more painful for the side, as Germany destroyed Argentina 4-0 in the 2010 quarterfinals. Germany had taken an early lead, which Sabella said threw off the team. He said he hoped that if that were to happen again, the tables would be turned.
“So let us hope that it does not happen, and if it does happen, it will be in our favor,” he said. He opined that his side was “much more conservative” than the one led by Sergio Batista in that loss, even with the many overlaps in the roster including Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria. “Although most of the players are the same, (but) the situation is different.”
Germany’s coach Joachim Low, leading the team in both outings, earlier in the day praised Argentina’s side for being more organized and versatile than in their 2010 faceoff.
Meanwhile, injuries still raise questions over the starting lineup, on top of the squad having one fewer day of recovery time than Germany since the semifinals. While Aguero is reported to be in shape for the final, Sabella said he would wait until after the squad’s last practice to see if Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria would be fit to play, after he sustained a thigh injury in Argentina’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Belgium.
“It is fundamental to see how he has evolved, if he’s improved. Today we have special things planned for him, and after practice, I will have a better idea,” he said.
Sabella also dismissed “irrelevant” speculation about whether this would be his last match as coach, saying he had “not discussed anything with my family with regards to my future.”
“The most important thing is the match tomorrow,” he added. “Obviously, from the professional point of view, this might be the most important thing beyond the final of the Libertadores Cup but also in Brazil.”
By Elaine Ramirez, Korea Herald correspondent (email@example.com