Of the many storylines undergirding the 2014 World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, the battle of the goalkeepers is one that may have the most impact on the result.
Germany and Argentina are two of the best teams on earth, but the matchup at goal highly favors Germany, which relies on Manuel Neuer to keep opposing teams from driving the ball between the posts.
Argentina's Sergio Romero has a lower profile but has risen to the occasion for this year's tournament, stopping two of five penalty kicks in his team's 1-0 win over the Dutch in the semifinals and securing advancement for La Albiceleste.
But Neuer is known by most observers as the world's best keeper, and Deutschland is relying on him to protect the net as Argentina and Germany face off in Sunday afternoon's highly anticipated final match.
The 28-year-old from Gelsenkirchen, Germany, has built a dominant career for his national team, and especially in this year's tournament. His prodigious play in the team's 2-1 extra time win over Algeria in the Round of 16 was viewed as a triumph for Neuer, who had three key saves and relied on bold play that has seen him step out of the box to prevent Algeria from exploiting Germany's uncharacteristically weak defense.
Continue Reading Below
A Bayern Munich phenom, the keeper has successfully defended penalty kicks in major international matches in recent years from players as dangerous as Cristiano Ronaldo, relying on intensive study of past match video to master the techniques needed to defend against the world's best attackers.
Romero, 27, on the other hand, had a relatively low profile before this Cup though he plays for Monaco, a team that had another breakout star this tournament in James Rodriguez of Colombia.
Born in Bernardo de Irigoyen, Argentina, Romero helped his team stay alive in their match against the Netherlands.
The world's eyes are on Rio as the match gets underway, and much of the action will take place in the goals as Neuer and Romero fight to protect the honor of their nations in the 2014 World Cup final.