Cathal Kelly is picking Argentina
This is a heart-over-head sort of pick. Argentina can’t run with Germany. It can’t trade blows. The Argentines must slowly bleed the will from the Germans. That makes this an ‘I don’t expect much of a game’ sort of pick. But there’s too much history here to go the other way. Winning at home in ’78 was the crown in their national heritage, but winning in the Maracana – the St. Peter’s of Brazilian football – would represent the great crowing opportunity of all time.
Key player: Lionel Messi will have to be great, but he only needs to do so for an instant. Heat-seeking midfield missile Javier Mascherano will have to be at his very best for all of 90 – or, more likely, 120 – minutes.
Score: Argentina 1 (4), Germany 1 (3)
Goal: Manuel Neuer, Germany
Defence: Ezequiel Garay, Argentina; Ron Vlaar, Netherlands; Mats Hummels, Germany; Philipp Lahm, Germany
Midfield: Javier Mascherano, Argentina; James Rodriguez, Colombia; Toni Kroos, Germany
Forward: Arjen Robben, Netherlands; Lionel Messi, Argentina; Neymar, Brazil
Subs: Keylor Navas, Costa Rica; Thiago Silva, Brazil; Arturo Vidal, Chile; Clint Dempsey, United States
John Doyle is picking Germany
I’m seeing a very tight game, near-impossible to predict with emphatic assurance. It will start slowly, very cagey from both sides and only broken open by a goal. The first from Germany. Then Argentina will loosen up, Messi moving to a more forward position, I see a 1-1 game going to extra time and Germany taking advantage of a slow, tired Argentina to win it 2-1. If so, it will break Argentina’s heart – the dream, the overwhelming urge to win it in Rio, has been so strong. But Germany has the momentum and there is a freshness about them, even going into the seventh game in this tournament.
Key player: Lionel Messi, but he is the unknowable factor. Pure alchemy. He could turn this into Argentina’s victory in a heartbeat if the opportunity arises and if Di Maria is back and fit, ready to supply him from the wing. Even in a loss Messi will be a standout. But Germany’s air of authority and adaptability is awe-inspiring at this point.
Score: Germany 2, Argentina 1
Goal: Tim Howard, United States
Defence: Ezequiel Garay, Argentina; Gary Medel, Chile; Eder Balanta, Colombia; Philipp Lahm, Germany
Midfield: Javier Mascherano, Argentina; James Rodriguez, Colombia; Paul Pogba, France
Forward: Arjen Robben, Netherlands; Lionel Messi, Argentina; Alexis Sanchez, Chile
Subs: Keylor Navas, Costa Rica; Giorgio Chiellini, Italy; Raphael Varane, France; Clint Dempsey, United States