Looking for final perfection in football World Cup

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is looking for perfection against Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final. 

Describing the Germans as ‘‘very powerful’’ physically, mentally and tactically, Sabella said there’s no room for error. 

‘‘We must play a perfect game,’’ Sabella said. 

Elaborating on how to accomplish that, the 59-year-old coach turned poetic for a moment. 

‘‘We will give everything we’ve got,’’ Sabella said. ‘‘Through humility, sacrifice, hard work, simplicity. By giving instead of taking, by forgiving instead of complaining.’’ 

The Argentinians lost one of their key players in the quarterfinals when Angel Di Maria limped off after straining his right thigh. Sabella said the Real Madrid winger’s condition was improving, but it was unclear whether he would be ready for the final. 

Argentina last played in a World Cup final in 1990, when it lost to West Germany. Four years earlier, Argentina had become world champion for the second time, also in a final against the Germans. 

Sabella said there are ‘‘parallels to a certain degree’’ between this World Cup and that of 1986, including the fact that the team to a large extent depends on a star player. Then it was Diego Maradona, now it is Lionel Messi, who has scored four goals in the tournament. 

‘‘Let’s hope the result is the same,’’ Sabella said. 

Argentina has been trying to regain energy after its shootout win over the Netherlands on Wednesday, knowing Germany had one more day to recuperate after beating Brazil 7-1 on Tuesday. 

Sabella dismissed a question about whether he would step down as Argentina coach after the match, saying the issue was ‘‘irrelevant’’ and that he was only thinking about the final. 

Sabella’s spokesman, Eugenio Lopez, told Buenos Aires radio La Red on Friday that he thought Sabella would step down after the World Cup. 

‘‘I haven’t talked to anyone,’’ Sabella said of his future, ‘‘not even my family.’’

Meanwhile, Germany have been given a helping hand by Argentina in beating them at the last two World Cups but they do not expect any more South American gifts in the final.

Their 2006 quarter-final win came after Argentina took a second-half lead but then replaced playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme with the more defensive Esteban Cambiasso while Lionel Messi was kept on the bench.

Germany seized the initiative, drew level and then won on penalties amid huge criticism of Argentina coach Jose Pekerman.

Four years ago, Germany took advantage of Diego Maradona’s coaching naivety and cavalier approach as they tore the Argentinians apart 4-0 again in the last eight.

Germany coach Joachim Loew and Sabella agree that Argentina have progressed since then.

‘‘Our team is more conservative than four years ago, we are looking to triumph via a different path,’’ Sabella told reporters on Saturday. ‘‘The teams are different although most of the players are the same.

‘‘We’ll give our all as always, with sacrifice, humility, hard work, being down to earth, giving before receiving, protecting one another, so that Argentina can be a champion again. We will do our best. More than that we cannot do.’’


Loew said that Argentina were much more than Messi.

‘‘They have other attacking powers like Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria. This team does not live solely on Messi. They have a good compact organisation, better than in 2010,’’ he said.

‘‘They can pressure opponents with their first line of attack early on, but they also sometimes fall back, and what is also one of their strengths — through defending and ball possession they bring Messi, Di Maria and Aguero quickly into the game.’’

‘‘They can be behind the ball with eight or nine and then launch quick attacks.’’

Germany will be trying to win the World Cup for the fourth time, and also become the first European team to win the title in South America, while Argentina are aiming for a third crown.

The teams have already met in two finals with Argentina winning in 1986 and Germany getting revenge four years later.

Despite being among the most successful sides in their respective continents, neither team has won a trophy recently.

Germany’s last success was at Euro 96 in England while Argentina won the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador.

Germany are favourites, having hammered Portugal 4-0 in the group stage and Brazil 7-1 in the last four, while Argentina managed five successive single-goal wins before edging past the Netherlands on penalties in Wednesday’s semi-final. 

- AP, Reuters