A Tale of Two Matches

Argentina vs. Germany – Today vs. FIFA World Cup Final

Like a stroke of fate, today, two nations competed in a friendly match less than two months removed from battling for the most important sports trophy in the world: The FIFA World Cup. On one side, the Argentineans begin the era of “Tata” Martino, their newly appointed head coach, and on the other, the Germans take the field with ceremonies to commemorate their newly printed jerseys donning not three stars, but four, a statement they wanted to make clear, almost show off, before the two nations took the pitch.

Anxious for this rematch to begin was the Argentinean side, ready to wash their loss-stained, dark blue, away jerseys of their World Cup finals memory. Again, a stroke of fate, two teams rematching one of the most important games of their lives, dressed head-to-toe as their former selves. It brought a tear to my eye, seeing these two sides line up like this, bringing back memories myself, and many others in my nation, are ready to forget but just can’t seem to. Luckily for us, there was one important difference today, and that was the inclusion on Ángel Di María, whose face showed the grit and determination he wished he could have demonstrated in the match two months ago.

From the first minute, the rematch showed every notion of being anything but a friendly. This being the first appearance for both nations since the World Cup finals, these two sides were ready to show the world either they deserved what they took home or they deserved what the other had. Some bodies were missing from the original line up, a couple newly retired Germans and some all-stars: Lionel Messi, Mesut Özil, and Bastian Schweinsteiger (whom I believe has the strongest name of any footballer – a close second going to Zlatan Ibrahimović). Along with these missing players, the bench included a couple other stars, like Gonzalo Higuaín and Ezequiel Lavezzi for the Argentinean side, both of whom saw no time today, and Mario Götze and Thomas Müller for the Germans, who graced the field during the second half. For the most part, the first twenty minutes of this match seemed like a continuation of the World Cup finals, both in intensity and strategy.

Like I mentioned before, the biggest difference in this rematch was Di María and his elusiveness with or without the ball. Playing with intensity and ferocity, Di María jumped from coast-to-coast looking for the best scoring chances. It wasn’t until he sped down the right wing, the opposite side of most attacks during Argentina’s World Cup run, that Di María was able to score his first assist of the day with a beautiful lob with the outside of his left foot to Segio Agüero, who one-timed it into the net. Agüero’s form seems miles away from what we witnessed during the World Cup. Strained with injuries and seeming glued to the turf, Agüero wasn’t able to make an impact during the tournament, but today, and all his Premier League matches so far this season, he moved with grace, speed, and wit. Not only was he able to net the first goal for the Martino era, but was able to show why he is deserving of all the continual praise. Érik Lamela, who replaced Messi on today’s squad, also made a huge impact, shadowing Di María in his movement. The Albiceleste rookie scored the second goal of the match, again from a beautiful cross from Di María’s left foot.

Although Germany began this rematch with just slightly too much patience, it was after Agüero’s first goal in the 19th minute when they realized they needed a new attack. This came when Toni Kroos and Marco Reus took charge for Germany’s midfield, forgetting the left-winged attacks and playing down the middle, something they did not show much during the World Cup. They created a lot of mistakes from the Argentinean defense, mostly Martín Demichelis. As a player who is prone to mistakes, being more mistake-ridden is a recipe for disaster, disaster Germany was ready to take advantage of, that is, if it was anyone but Mario Gómez as their lone striker. Gómez’s inaccuracy aside, it was Kroos and Reus who showed a different Germany, with a more aggressive attack down the middle, something they both became famous for in the Bundesliga.

While Germany showed a different attack, one thing that hasn’t changed is Germany’s poise. When they have the ball at their feet, they show discipline, very rarely wasting a pass, and when they don’t have the ball, they show patience. The only problem in today’s rematch, that differed from the World Cup final, was that Germany didn’t have much time with the ball at their feet. This being a strategy Spain mastered for their 2010 World Cup win, control of possession, and maybe something Martino was able to pick up during his time at Barcelona, but definitely something Argentina display well up until the 70th minute.

Germany was able to pick up sloppy goals from bounces in the Sergio Romero’s box, it was Argentina’s tactful playing, with beauty sprinkled throughout by Di María, that ran the score of this World Cup finals rematch to 4-2. That’s one thing that I can say didn’t differ from today’s game and the World Cup final two months ago: the better team won. Typing that sentence made me cringe, but it’s the truth. Fewer mistakes and better team play will ultimately result in wins, and that’s what can be taken away from these two matches, two months apart, featuring two nations that appear to be cultivating a beautiful rivalry that as football lovers we can only hope to see more of.

– Nahuel F.A.

* Disclaimer: If I sound biased at any point in this article, it’s because I am. Germans don’t hold back from reminding us they have sent us home in the last three World Cups, and even if today was just a friendly, scoring four goals slightly softens the blow that has had me close to tears for two months now. We’re a proud people, especially when it comes to football, we’ll take any inch were given.

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