The third time’s the charm when Germany and Argentina take the pitch on Sunday for the main event that everyone has been waiting for. The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final marks the third time the two countries have squared off with the right to hoist the cup.

One of the greatest World Cups we’ve seen in recent memory will be decided in the famed Maracana in Rio de Janiero where over 75,000 people in attendance and over 1 billion on television are expected to watch the climax of this year’s competition. Germany has won the cup three times, whereas, Argentina are two-time winners themselves.

Their first meeting in a World Cup final came in 1986 where La Albiceleste, led by Diego Maradona, hoisted the trophy in Mexico. Four years later in the grudge match, Germany revenged their loss with a 1-0 thriller in Rome. Neither team has won the World Cup since beating each other, and their third match up on Sunday will be the first time in history, any two sides have squared off three times in the Final.

For Germany, it will be their World Cup record 8th time in the final and they will look to become the first ever European team to win the cup on South American soil. Germany will come into the match rested and with confidence as they have the advantage of an extra day of rest, and were able to cruise to a 7-1 clinic put on against the Brazilians.

Germany is by far the favorite going into the final, as they appear to have the better team, the better midfield, and the better goalie. There is one thing Germany does not have however, and that is Lionel Messi.

Messi has been the man of the moment for Argentina as he has led his team to their first World Cup Final in almost 15 years. The four-time Balloon d’Or winner has won almost every major trophy there is to win in the sport, the only one eluding him, is the one that the maestro Maradona did win, the World Cup.

If Messi wants to get out of Maradona’s shadow once and for all and surpass the Argentine great as the greatest soccer player not only in his own country, but the world, he needs to win the World Cup. Messi himself knows the impact of the moment as he wrote the following yesterday on his facebook page:

“Tomorrow, we will play the most important match of our lives for our country. My dreams and my hopes are being fulfilled due to the hard work and sacrifice of a team that has given everything from match one.”

The match is being described as “Messi vs. Mannschaft”, but in actuality the most important match up will take place in the midfield where Argentina’s Javier Mascherano will battle with Germany’s Sami Khedira all afternoon.

Javier Mascherano and Messi Argentina's Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi celebrate after defeating the Netherlands 4-2 on penalty kicks © Dylan Martinez / Reuters;

Khedira was excellent against Brazil proving two assists to his teammates and scoring the 5th and final goal of the first half for the Germans. He has been absolutely ruthless and efficient in the middle of the pitch, showing almost no weaknesses since Phillip Lahm was moved back to his more comfortable role as right back.

Mascherano on the other hand has completed more passes (552) than anyone else for Argentina. While you may not see his name leaping off the page in the stat sheet after the game, he is the mover and shaker of the midfield, setting up his teammates and instilling confidence in them to get the job done.

After demolishing Brazil 7-1, Germany’s offensive attack is seen as their greatest strength. However, like Argentina, their defense might be their greatest strength too. Both teams have kept the most clean sheets (three and four respectively), than any other team in the tournament. If you’re expecting to see another fireworks display of goal scoring in this match, you’re in for a big disappointment.

Recent history has shown that either of these two teams are capable of winning on Sunday and by a wide margin. In 2010 at the World Cup in South Africa, Germany handed Argentina their worst loss at the World Cup 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Their last meeting, in Germany, saw La Albiceleste defeat the Germans 3-1 in August of 2012.

Ghana and Algeria gave us the blueprint on how to compete with Germany. Ghana got into a shootout with the Germans and would have beaten them if not for a last minute goal by none other than Miroslav Klose. Algeria didn’t have the offense to defeat the Germans, but was able to frustrate them for over 100 minutes before Germany was finally able to score. That match however, was before Germany’s coach Joachim Loew figured out the best tactical lineup for his team. Since moving Philip Lahm to right back and Thomas Mueller to the wing, Germany has looked unstoppable.

Both teams should feel the nerves early and play tight and conservative out of the gate. I trust Argentina saw the tape of the semifinal game against Brazil and will be focused early to not concede any goals to the Germans. Germany will be cognizant of the strong counter attack that Argentina offers with Messi and Aguero. Angel Di Maria is more than likely out for the match again, and his absence will be a huge blow to Argentina as they will miss his creativity in German box.

If these two teams played ten consecutive times, I believe Germany would win nine out of ten times. They are THAT good. But anything can happen in a one game, winner take all World Cup Final. Five weeks ago I predicted that these two teams would meet in the final, and Messi would find the magic needed to defeat the German giants and hoist the cup. Over the span of this tournament, my eyes have shown me that Germany is a machine that is almost impossible to stop, and that Messi does indeed have magic. Can one man stop an eleven man machine? Yes, he can.

My Prediction: 1-0 Argentina.

Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada.lv:

Germany: Pick Em’ (-180)   //   +115 Moneyline
Argentina: Pick Em’ (+150)   //   +250 Moneyline Draw: +230