Messi magic will defy odds and win cup for Argentina. Glenn Hoddle
The 7-1 humiliation of Brazil might actually work against Germany on Sunday.
Suddenly it has elevated them to hot favourites – they are 4/6 to win it with William Hill – and a team of almost superhuman players. But that is not the reality of the situation.
The logic says Germany. The fantasy lies at the feet of Lionel Messi. It is written in the stars that he will win the World Cup for Argentina.
The burden of having such enormous acclaim for the 7-1 victory might be a psychological burden on Germany, they might feel the pressure to live up to that crazy result.
Don’t judge Germany in that one game because Brazil were as bad as Germany were good. It’s virtually impossible to judge on that one-off game. Germany are actually by far the better team than Argentina, superior in every department. But sometimes football defies logic - and this is the time.
Messi is a man on a mission to deliver the World Cup in the same way as Diego Maradona did when I was a player up against him in the Azteca Stadium back in ’86.
I have never felt more devastated than that quarter final defeat 28 years ago. It was the worst feeling of my entire football career, knowing there had been such an injustice as I clearly saw Maradona handball THAT goal.
Then, as now, Argentina were a one-man team, an ordinary team with one magician who can turn a game in a blink of an eye. Argentina had it then with Maradona and they have it now with Messi.
It was that reason I tipped Argentina before the tournament began.
I wavered only at the semi-final stage, when I thought Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands would just have the edge - it turned out to be one of the worst games of the entire tournament and Messi had one of his off days, hardly putting a foot right, losing possession and have little to no effect on the game - although didn’t he take his penalty well?
When it comes to Sunday’s final, there should be, by rights, only winner - Germany. They are the better team. But having said Argentina from the start, and going with my gut feeling that Messi will turn it on, I think Argentina will get lucky.
They are relying on Messi and Germany will know that - I expect Joachim Low will devise a plan to try and tightly mark him.
But the way they tore Brazil apart, a team with zero defence, there is a sneaky feeling on my part that the Germans have peaked early. For all the attacking football in this tournament, paradoxically, it could be the team that defends the best, wins this World Cup.
But sometimes it is impossible to defend against Messi.
Low has been way ahead of ‘Alex’ Sabella in terms of coaching and managerial skills in this tournament. The one time Sheffield United and Leeds player has got Argentina to the final by hook or by crook, but mainly relying on Messi.
You have to applaud the Argentine defence as they don’t get exposed. Much of that security is built around the outstanding Javier Mascherano, the one-time West Ham and Liverpool player, who has been the best player on the pitch by a mile. First class.
His recovery and tackle on Arjen Robben was the key to Argentina progressing to the Final via penalties.
It all boils down to whether or not Messi is in the mood. I have suspected for some time that his dip in form last season with Barcelona was because he had become so obsessed with the World Cup.
If he is saving his best performance for the final, it will be a joy to watch. The key for Argentina is to make sure they get Messi on the ball as much as possible.
I have a hunch that the Germans reached the heights against the hosts… and if Messi turns it on, he will be holding aloft the World Cup on Sunday evening.
VERDICT: ARGENTINA TO WIN