Argentina, Germany set for historic clash

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A Germany side chasing a place in history will attempt to wreck Lionel Messi's dream of a World Cup coronation with Argentina as the month-long football carnival hits a climax at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 64th game of one of the best World Cups of all time pits Europe against South America — a duel between two soccer superpowers in one of the sport's most evocative arenas.

"At this point who is favorite, who is not, it doesn't make a difference," Argentina midfielder Maxi Rodriguez said. "Both teams feel a responsibility to go all the way."

Germany are attempting to become the first side from Europe to win a World Cup in the Americas, determined that a golden generation will finally get its reward after a string of near misses.

Messi, meanwhile, is seeking the triumph that will silence forever the critics who argue the absence of a World Cup title precludes him from a place alongside Diego Maradona in soccer's pantheon.

The momentum is firmly with Germany after its astonishing 7-1 semifinal demolition job of Brazil, through a combination of superb attacking play and defensive incompetence.

Ominously for Argentina, Germany say they put the win firmly in the rear-view mirror.

"We enjoyed the game against Brazil, but we ticked it off after 24 hours," said Germany striker Miroslav Klose.

From top to bottom, the German spine has exuded quality. Manuel Neuer has looked unbeatable in goal while Mats Hummels has been a silky and solid presence in defense. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira have proved a formidable midfield duo, allowing the likes of Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil to flourish.

Thomas Mueller has been a deadly goal-scoring threat — five goals so far in the tournament — while the 36-year-old Klose has chipped in with two goals, becoming the World Cup's all-time leading scorer in the process.

Ranged against Germany's attacking arsenal are an Argentina side led by 27-year-old superstar Messi.

The four-time world player of the year came into the tournament determined to atone for two disappointing World Cups in 2006 and 2010.

He has dragged his team over the line at key moments in Brazil. He opened with an individual goal against Bosnia, an injury-time winner to beat Iran, and two more goals against Nigeria.

"Regardless of whether he scores goals or not, his influence is decisive," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said of Messi.

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