Barring a dramatic swing in betting confidence, Germany will kick-off their eighth World Cup final as hot 13/20 favourites to earn a fourth star above their crest, yet there remain some serious concerns about their defence for 7/5 outsiders Argentina to exploit.
Joachim Low’s finalists have given up a respectable four goals in six games en route to their Maracana destiny date, but they’ve yet to fully refute the allegations levelled at their backline in the wake of their Euro 2012 semi-final exit.
Namely that, when robbed of the chance to unleash rapier counter attacking raids by pragmatic and conservative foes, their effectiveness wanes.
Two years ago the Nationalelf had viewers in paroxysms of delight with the Brylcreem-slick attacking football that paved the way to the penultimate hurdle, rendering the drip, drip of concessions a peripheral concern.
Yet, when they bumped into a side sufficiently well-drilled not to wilt under their advances, they came unstuck, losing 2-1 to a Mario Ballotelli-inspired Italy.
Reviewing the opposition they have accounted for on the way to the final in Brazil, it’s fair to say that haven’t yet had to answer that criticism fully, despite Portugal, France and Brazil having been sent to the mat.
Pepe’s hotheadedness fatally undermined the Seleccao, while, robbed of lynchpin Thiago Silva, Brazil’s composure melted in the heat of their own self-imposed pressure as they sought to assert themselves.
Meanwhile France never got going in a match in which the Germans always seemed comfortable, yet Les Bleus still got off nine attempts on goal to Die Mannschaft’s five.
Arguably Algeria have been Germany’s most defensively resolute opponents to date, with 23 attempts on goal required to clean their clocks, and tellingly it was an extremely close game in which the Africans found the net and threatened on the counter themselves.
Their virtual dead-rubber group game against Nigeria aside, Argentina have allowed a single goal past Sergio Romero in Brazil and will most certainly rate the most steadfast foes their rivals have yet faced.
In defying the Netherlands in their semi-final the Albiceleste showed the commitment and organisation required to keep an attack that had rampaged all over reigning champions Spain at bay for 120 of the more intense minutes seen at this World Cup.
Forming a seven-man defence when the situation dictates, Argentina have the world-class talents of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and, should fitness allow, Angel Di Maria to exploit the moment when, inevitably, frustration-worn cracks begin to appear in the German Plan A, just as Ghana did earlier in the tournament.