By Sebastian Li
In the matchup between Germany and Argentina this year, history has managed to repeat itself, again. The last time Germany was able to lift the World Cup was in 1990, when West Germany defeated Argentina in a 1-0 victory. That game was a rematch of the final in 1986, when Argentina managed to win their second World Cup ever. Since the German Reunification, Germany has yet to win the tournament. Messi and the rest of Argentina will be looking for revenge in this year’s final, hoping to keep the World Cup away from Germany.
With Brazil eliminated from the tournament, their South American rival now looks to capture their revenge, but to do so would upset the odds. The rest of the world bets on soccer as much as Americans complain about it - probably more, on second thought. There is a ridiculous variety of bets that can be placed on a soccer game. One can bet on the number of corner kicks at half-time and full-time, who will have more corner kicks at several points in the game, which side will get the first corner, which side will get the first corner of the second half, and these aren’t even all the corner kick bets. The most popular bet, obviously, is on the result of the match. Consistent with American complaints, a very realistic bet is regular time expiring in a draw. Shown in parenthesis are the payouts in a ratio to 1. Despite Lionel Messi, the odds clearly favor Germany:
Considering the odds, it’s fair to expect a German victory. But exactly what is it that separates the Germans from the Argentines?
I agree with the betting odds on this one, but only to an extent. Germany certainly has a better chance at winning. However, this game is going to be wide open, and the odds on Argentina make it a truly enticing bet. Despite the fact that most of the people around the world have been enamored with Germany’s play throughout the tournament, it’s more than possible that Messi & co. can work their way through the German defense. On the other side of the pitch, Argentina’s defense simply needs to play as solid as they have throughout the tournament in order for the bet to cash in. While the numbers show Argentina as the underdog, the team is beyond capable and filled to the brim with talent equivalent to that of Germany.
The difference is the more individualized play of the Argentine team when compared to the German machine that patiently plays simple passes and snakes its way into great positions, mostly taking on defenders when necessary rather than systematically. The Argentine defense is going to be dealing with cutting out passes and taking the proper angles to defend, whereas the German defenders will be dealing with the terrorizing speed and skill of Messi, Di Maria, Lavezzi, and Aguero. If these players can work their way into dangerous spots or find the clinical Gonzalo Higuain in the right position, this game will be entirely up for grabs. Personally, I’d say it’s fair to believe that any defense in the world will have a hard time adjusting to the magical feet of Lionel Mess.
The Germans have absolutely looked like the stronger team, despite giving up 4 goals compared to Argentina’s 3. Argentina’s defense has consistently defended well, forcing their opposition into playing a small and shrinking field as the players collapse on the ball as a team. An extreme indication of the difference between teams is the 17 goals that Germany has scored in the tournament so far, compared to Argentina's 7. Knowing that, take a look at some of the odds for the team scoring bets:
According to these odds, both teams are essentially expected to score, with Argentina being slightly less likely to put the ball in the back of the net. It might seem like the odds have exaggerated Argentina’s offense, but at the end of the day, each game is a new one. Argentina’s defense has been more consistent than Germany’s, with the German offense acting as a shield by holding onto the ball much more than their opponents. But the Argentines consistently win the ball with tackles in better areas of the field, whereas German opponents have still seen opportunities with some open space.
Rather than presenting the first goalscorer bet, in which Messi is the most favored player, the odds below are those of the anytime goalscorer bet. For me, the first goalscorer bet tends to be one of the more intriguing ones, but in a game like this one, where the players are all ridiculously talented, you simply have to get really lucky to guess correctly. Instead of running for the hills when the initial goal is scored, I’d rather watch the entire game and just pray for a specific player:
To begin with, it’s pretty astounding that Germany is heavily favored to win the game despite the goalscoring odds being relatively balanced between the players. To be clear, Messi is expected to score most out of any of the players. An even more confusing part of these bets: I’m not entirely sure Miroslav Klose will be on the field this next game, despite the fact he started in the semi-final demolition of the host nation. To be perfectly honest, it’s difficult to imagine these five Germans, who hold their nation's highest odds to score, to be sharing the field at the same time.
In order to hedge one's bets on Argentina a bit, the bet for Germany scoring looks to be a safe one, but it won’t pay out much. Realistically, neither of the bets on whether or not a team will score have favorable odds. For the game ahead, I’d expect the field to be both well-spaced and quickly defended. German players will be defensively shifting to the ball more as a result of the talent on the opposing side, covering for teammates rather than staying in space and maintaining position. Meanwhile, the Argentine team has done a good job throughout the tournament of collapsing on the ball, so there’s no reason to expect otherwise in the final.
Where to place a goalscorer bet is where things can get interesting. There are several players that would be legitimate candidates for bets here: Messi and Muller are probably the safest bets, as Klose may have seen his last World Cup game when making history in this years’ semi-final as the World Cup's all-time leading scorer (16 goals). In Joachim Lowe’s revolving door of attacking players, Klose has consistently lost out to Muller.
I’d put my money on Messi over Muller for two reasons. First, Messi has been inspiring his nation throughout the entire tournament, singlehandedly acting as a driving force when hope seems to fade away. He’s been able to focus in, beat several players, and create something when his team has truly needed him to. Second, Messi hasn’t scored since the group stages. In the two elimination games, Messi threaded the ball into Di Maria’s body before he put away the deciding goal of the quarter-final against Switzerland, and was a constant threat throughout the semi-final against Holland. Simply put, it’s just about that time for Messi to be scoring again. After all, it’s been two games since the legend-to-be has done so.
My personal favorite bet on the anytime goal scorer bet, however, is a player that’s listed outside of those above. At a 6.5:1 payout, I love the bet for Toni Kroos to score at some point in this game. Recently linked with a move to Real Madrid, the 24 year old Kroos has been a mainstay in Joachim Lowe’s lineup, consistently appearing as the attacking midfielder. He’s already got 2 goals and 4 assists for this tournament, but what really intrigues me about this bet is his ability to float in the area above the box while his teammates move the ball around. Despite the fact that he looks to pass before shooting as a true midfielder should, Kroos has an absolute rocket of a shot that can be surgical in limited space.
All in all, the final tomorrow will absolutely be an entertaining one. What remains to be seen is just how the game will play out. Both sides ought to play with confidence and attacking fervor, which will ultimately result in an open game worthy of being a World Cup Final. Personally, I’ll be hoping for an Argentine victory. Something deep down just gives me the feeling that Messi will be going bananas in Brazil.