Soccer Picks: The World Cup Final

SBR Staff

Friday, July 11, 2014 8:31 AM GMT

The showpiece of this magnificent sporting spectacle has been a long time coming hasn't it?

           

It seems months ago we were all backing over 2.5 goals blindly in the group stages and marvelling at the attacking football. We've had Samba beats and Suarez bites; Spain, Italy and England sent back to their homes while James became a household name; and of course the Brazilian rollercoaster ride finally careened off track when Neymar was no more.

So to the final. The tournament has been full of surprises and inconsistencies. Germany followed up their demolition of Portugal with relatively mediocre performances against Ghana, the USA and Algeria. But then came the 7-1. I don't think Joachim Low's side were amazing, they just played very well with pace and precision against a team imploding before their eyes, but for any side to score seven in a semi-final is obviously an incredible achievement.

Argentina’s unspectacular progression may be the exception to this inconsistent World Cup. They have faced parked buses at every twist and turn, from a Bosnian side who harried and hassled to the six-at-the-back tactics of the Dutch. Each time, they've finally got the job done. Nigeria were the only team to open up against Messi and Co and the South Americans scored three (and conceded two).

An awful lot depends on two things: how much have Argentina got left after a rough, tough 120 minutes and more on Wednesday and how will Germany approach the Messi issue?

If they man-mark him, I see them winning a close run match by a single goal, because he has struggled to shake off the attention and, if his dad's quotes are true that he feels like his legs weigh 100kg each, it’s going to be too much being man-handled for another hour and a half. If the Europeans decide to play their own game and not let Argentina dictate their tactics, I'm going to trust the little magician to grab the match by the scruff of the neck and have enough moments of brilliance to win the match, because Germany’s high defence line is there to be exploited by a clever through-ball.

I think Germany's confidence will mean they don't change to man-mark the Barcelona superstar, so I'll stick by my pre-tournament selection of Argentina to win the World Cup final. I think it will like a Champions League match between a Pep Guardiola team full of creativity and desire to get forward and a Jose Mourinho side set up to frustrate and take their chance when or if it comes.
 

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The next question is whether the game ends after 90 minutes or goes all the way to extra time and penalties? Recent history shows us punters need to be ready for the long haul. Three of the last five finals have been level after normal time. In 2010 Spain won 1-0 in extra-time, 2006 saw Italy win on penalties, Brazil and France won to nil inside 90 minutes in 2002 and 1998 and USA 94 went all the way to a shoot-out with the Brazilians winning.

Both our finalists have already gone to extra time (Argentina twice) and if you add to that the amount of close games they have both competed in (Germany had one goal winning margins against USA and France and drew with Algeria and Ghana, while Argentina won by single goals against Bosnia, Iran, Nigeria and Belgium and drew with Holland) I think a tight game, that goes into extra time is a fair betting pick at 23/10 (BWin).

If you’re happy with that argument, the prices for an extra-time win are 11/1 for both sides. Four of the six finals that have gone past the 90th minute have been decided in the following half an hour’s play, including Argentina’s 1978 win over Holland. If you fancy the ultimate drama and a penalty shoot-out win for either side, you can get 9/1 for each of them.

I’ve looked at the bookings markets, but we have a sensible referee in Nicola Rizzoli and two sides who have been disciplined throughout. It is worth remembering these sides do have a simmering dislike. Germany dumped Argentina out of the 2010 World Cup 4-0, in 2006 punches were thrown after the Germans won a penalty shoot-out, plus of course Maradona’s team in 1986 beat the West Germans in the final. The finals record stands at 1-1, Brehme’s 85th minute penalty edged the Italia 90 in Rome.

Having mentioned Maradona, let’s have one last word on Messi. Unless he does what I’m tentatively predicting he will and grab this final by the scruff of the neck, he can’t be talked about in the same class as that other amazing ‘M’. As an England fan I know full well how he could win a game on his own despite being kicked, marked and blocked at every turn. I do sense Messi will score in this game and to see him available at 2/1 to score at anytime in any football match, I simply have to have that soccer betting pick.

Main bets:
Argentina to lift the trophy: 7/5 BWin
Either team in extra time: 5/1 SkyBet
Lionel Messi to score anytime: 2/1 Betfair