On the face of things, the odds are already stacking up against Argentina. The South American representatives in the World Cup Final have had one day less rest than their opponents, and played for longer as their semi-final went into extra time. They face a rampant Germany side, fresh from a barely believable 7-1 destruction of hosts Brazil. But looking beneath the surface, what does a data analysis of the two teams tell us ahead of tonight’s showpiece in Rio?
Starting with the basics, Germany’s goals-per-game average of 2.7 dwarves the 1.2 of Argentina, who have scored only 2 from open play during the knockout phase. Where can we expect the goals come from? Lionel Messi (4) and Thomas Muller (5) are the teams’ top scorers, but Muller might have more opportunities to enter his name on football’s most famous scoresheet. The Bayern Munich forward is presented with an average of 4.4 scoring chances per game, to Messi’s 2.0.
Angel Di Maria, the industrious Argentina midfielder rumoured to be coveted by Manchester United and Paris St Germain, looks certain to play and his forays into the final third often result in shots. Di Maria’s 25 shots over the tournament are 9 more than any player on either side (Muller has 16) but disappointingly have only produced 1 goal, a tally he will be desperate to improve.
The midfield looks set to be a battle ground, with both sides setting themselves up in a noticeably narrow formation. As you can see from the two pitch maps below – which show the average position of players over the tournament – this area of the field looks set to be congested.
This could make the jobs of defensive midfielders Javier Mascherano (Argentina) and Philipp Lahm (Germany) all the more important. The two enforcers have the highest number of steals – Mascherano (2.4) and Lahm (1.8) – in their respective midfields, and captain Lahm may be given the huge responsibility of marking his fellow skipper, Messi.
Despite making only 3 appearances, 2 of them as a substitute, Chelsea’s young star André Schürrle could be Germany’s wildcard in the final. In his 156 mins on the pitch, he has made an unavoidable impact, with the highest average of shots per game (7.0) and the highest average of goals per game (1.6). Schürrle, who capped off the Brazil win with the 7th and final goal, also has a squad-high average of scoring opportunities (4.4). Could veteran Miroslav Klose be the player to make way for super sub Schürrle?
In terms of styles, while Germany favour passing, which accounts for 49% of their offensive moves in the final third, their scoring chance creation rate is lower (16%) than when crossing (23%). Argentina have a higher scoring chance creation rate when they attempt passing moves in the danger zone (21%).
Argentina might want to employ a higher defensive line than they did in their semi-final vs Holland. Germany prefer to weave their way into the penalty area to create scoring opportunities – they have not scored a single goal from long range in the tournament, from an average of 2.7 attempts per game.
The first goal could be crucial tonight. Neither side are accustomed to trailing – Argentina have not been behind in the tournament, while Germany have only been losing a game once (they went 2-1 down to Ghana in the group phase). If we are treated to an early strike in the Maracana, it could lead to the open, exciting game that the world wants.