2014 World Cup has probably been the most memorable edition of the tournament in recent memory. It has seen several records broken, including average attendance and even the semi-final clash between Brazil and Germany saw a slew of records getting broken and created. The final, likewise, will see a couple of records but without a kick of the ball. Argentina versus Germany will now become the most played fixture in World Cup history, jointly with Brazil v Sweden which has happened seven times. Argentina have faced West Germany and Germany in 1958, 1966, 1986, 1990, 2006, 2010 in past. One record this fixture will not share jointly is appearances in final. This is the first time in World Cup history that a fixture will happen for the third time in World Cup history – only Brazil v Italy has happened twice. The clashes between Brazil and Italy are often termed as “Derby of the World” given their World Cup records but the actual rivalry between two countries is probably more intense in the case of Germany and Argentina.
The first of these seven meetings came in 1958. Argentina came into this tournament after a fantastic campaign in Copa America 1957 where they dominated from start to end to win the tournament. A team known popularly as “dirty faces” for playing with the joy and mirth of dirty faced children, Argentina defeated Colombia 8-2, Brazil 3-0 and Uruguay 4-0, among other results. Argentine fans couldn’t have been blamed if they thought their team was one of the favourites for 1958 World Cup. But then disaster struck. It’s source – a European country hundreds of miles away. Humberto Maschio, Antonio Angelillo and Omar Sivori, called the “Trio of Death” had scored 20 out of the 25 goals Argentina scored in 1957 Copa. The same year lure of Italian money saw the trio join Serie A clubs and given their Italian ancestry they were promptly snapped up by Italian government to play for Gli Azzuri and they were barred from playing for Argentina.
It was a major blow from which Argentina didn’t recover when the World Cup arrived. Their opening fixture couldn’t have been more difficult, against defending champions West Germany. To make matters worse Argentines had forgotten to bring their kits and borrowed local club Malmo’s shirts. It took just three minutes for Argentina to take the lead through Omar Corbatta. West Germany’s quality would eventually show through as Helmut Rahn scored a brace and Uwe Seeler scored the first of his nine World Cup goals. Despite playing most of the second half with 10 men, a 3-1 victory got Germany’s campaign to defend their title to a great start but Argentina would eventually finish bottom of their group.
Eight years later they would square off once again in Villa Park, Birmingham. Spain and Switzerland were the other two teams in their group but Argentina and West Germany were expected to qualify to knock-out stages. Unlike their first encounter, this one didn’t have goals in it and ended in a dull nil-nil draw.
29th June, 1986 over 114,000 spectators had gathered at the majestic Azteca stadium to witness one of the most eagerly anticipated finals in history. Franz Beckenbaur managed West Germany had begun slowly, losing to Denmark and drawing against Uruguay. They somehow scraped their way to semi-final before producing their most convincing display to knock Platini’s France out. Argentina, on the other hand, had grown strength to strength with Diego Armando Maradona in prime form. The little Argentine produced master class after master class to pack England and Belgium out of the World Cup and mainly because of him, the South Americans were favourites in this match.
West Germans started with a heavily defensive 5-3-2 formation and their main target was to keep Maradona quiet. The Germans seemed to be successful in their plan as a frustrated Maradona picked up a booking as early as 17th minute. Despite him having a relatively quiet game, Argentina took the lead through a Jose Brown header on 22nd minute before Jorge Valdano doubled the tally in second half. Seemingly down and out, Germany would somehow claw their way back thanks to Rudi Voller’s head. Voller headed for Rummenigge’s first goal while his second header cancelled out Argentina’s lead. Just when the match looked as if it would go into extra time, Maradona found an inch of extra space and time and released a through ball for Burruchaga with the entire German backline caught out of position. The FC Nantes midfielder made no mistake, beating Schumacher for the goal that would win Argentina their second World Cup title.
If the 1986 final was a classic, the 1990 final was anything but. The tables had turned in Italia 90. Argentina and West Germany had the same managers but their styles were distinctly different. Argentina started the tournament by losing to Cameroon and was an ugly, cynical side which squeezed past teams in the knockout round thanks to moments of brilliance from Maradona and Sergio Goycochea’s penalty shoot-out heroics. Given the thuggish style of football played by Argentina, it was not surprising that they came into the final with four players suspended due to bookings. West Germany, on the other hand, was probably the most exciting team in an ugly tournament. They had a solid defence with marauding full-backs, Lothar Mathaus provided steel in midfield along with Pierre Littbarski’s creativity while upfront the strike pairing of Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann had hit form in Italy, scoring six times between them, one more than the tally managed by entire Argentine team in World Cup.
West Germans were the dominant side in this match and had as many as sixteen shots at goal, compared to Argentina’s solo effort. What Argentina lacked in efforts at goal, they made up for in red cards. Pedro Manzon came on as a second half substitute but lasted just 19 minutes after becoming the first man to be sent off in a world cup final. Manzon’s tackle on Kilnsmann was vicious but the German also made quite a meal out of it. The deciding moment came on 84th minute, almost around the same time that Argentina scored the winning goal in Mexico City. Voller was hauled down by Roberto Sensini as the Mexican referee awarded a controversial penalty kick. Goycochea had become somewhat a penalty shoot-out expert during Italia 90 but even though he guessed the correct side, he was unable to stop Andreas Brehme’s shot. Argentina would lose once more player on 87th minute with the expulsion of Gustavo Dezotti. Maradona, a pale shadow of his 1986 form, ended the game in tears after being expertly marked by Guido Buchwald. It was an ugly end to an ugly World Cup and a New York Times report of the final would scathingly note, ”What self-respecting American parent would take Matthew and Pam and all the other 9-year-old soccer players in the United States to a World Cup final like the 1-0 victory by West Germany over Argentina yesterday?”
Both teams had to wait for 20 years to play each other again and this time Germany was the host. The 72,000 strong crowd in Berlin’s Olympiastadion were looking at heart-break with Argentina dominating the quarter-final and having taken a lead through Roberto Ayala. With his team on top Jose Pekerman would commit a tactical hara-kiri. He used all his subs between 71st and 79th minutes and most damningly, brought off Juan Roman Riquelme for a more defensive Esteban Cambiasso while a workman like Julio Cruz replaced Lionel Messi. Germany instantly took control of the midfield in Riquelme’s absence, equalizing through Klose. Neither team was able to find the net in regulation time and extra time but Germany had clearly grown stronger since Pekerman’s erroneous subs.
But Pekerman’s mistakes are only the second most memorable event of this match. The most famous fallout of this quarter-final was Germany turning the apparent lottery of penalty shoot-outs into a definite science. Jurgen Klinsmann’s staff had studied hours of footage of penalties taken by every Argentine player and based on that data Jens Lehmann was asked to choose which side to dive in. The former Arsenal ‘keeper obliged, saving Cambiasso and Ayala’s shots as Germany converted each of their four spot kicks. The heartbroken Argentine fans must have been left to wonder what the outcome would have been had Pekerman not taken off Riquelme.
The 2006 affair was a close run thing but the repeat of this fixture in 2010 quarter-final was anything but evenly matched. Both Germany and Argentina were aided by refereeing errors but largely deserved their wins in second round. Any tactical plan Diego Maradona had was thrown in the dumps as early as the third minute as Germany took the lead with Thomas Muller heading in a Bastian Schweinsteinger free-kick. The first half ended with both teams having chances to score but unable to apply a perfect finish. Argentina came out stronger in second half and created several clear cut chances. As the South Americans pushed men upwards Germany began to launch clinical counter attacks, exploiting the acres of space along the flanks. Miroslav Klose, playing his 100th match for Germany, made this match an occasion to remember for him. Showcasing his excellent poaching skills he struck a brace, equaling Gerd Muller’s world cup record. Schweinsteiger assisted yet another goal as Arne Friedrich completed Argentina’s humiliation. The 4-0 loss would be Argentina’s worst defeat in 40 years and would be the death knell of Diego Maradona’s coaching career.
Argentina’s record against Germany in World Cups in anything but positive. In the six matches these two teams have played so far the South Americans have won only once, compared to Germany’s four wins. It is difficult to predict how an encounter between these two countries will pan out. Some of these matches have been classics while some utterly one sided and ugly. There has also been a number of cards flashed out every time Argentina played the Germans. Regardless of actual quality or excitement, clashes between Argentina and Germany are almost always intense. The fans will be hoping that the 2014 final will be more of a reflection of the 1986 final, rather than the 1990 one, in terms of quality.