The World Cup final has produced more than its fair share of global heroes and unforgettable moments.
From Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta producing his wonder goal in extra time back in 2010 and France’s Zinedine Zidane earning a red card for an absentminded head-butt in 2006 to England striker Geoff Hurst’s hat trick in 1966 that would lift the country to its only Cup title.
Undoubtedly the World Cup final’s best moments have been provided by players rising to the occasion, and Sunday’s decisive matchup between Argentina and Germany should be no different.
Let’s take a look at several players who could be the difference in the match.
Lionel Messi, F
Perhaps no star’s legacy will be defined more than Messi’s. The Barcelona forward has already netted four goals and an assist, but hasn’t scored in Argentina’s three knockout stage victories with defenses obviously focused on the elusive and talented player.
How Messi navigates past Germany’s stacked midfield and a backline that’s only surrendered four goals throughout the tournament could make or break Argentina’s hopes for a third World Cup.
Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, F
Should Messi be neutralized, finishing off attacks will fall at Aguero or Higuain’s feet. Together they’ve scored 43 goals in their international careers, just one more than Messi.
Still Aguero has yet to score in the tournament, and missed the two wins against Switzerland and Belgium due to a muscle injury. When he returned to play the final 10 minutes of regulation and extra time versus the Netherlands, Aguero seemed fit but wasn’t 100 percent.
Higuan’s volley goal in the eighth minute against Belgium proved the difference, and his assist in the opening group stage match against Bosnia-Herzegovina proves he can also facilitate.
Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Garay, D
Arguably the pair have been Argentina’s best defenders in the tournament, but they haven’t met such a dangerous attacking club like Germany yet. They’ll need to limit Germany’s chances inside the box, and provide clean clearances for Argentina to pose any threat.
Thomas Muller, M
At this point Muller should have the Golden Ball wrapped up and shipped back home. He’s totaled five goals and three assists, despite most defenses focused on limiting his opportunities.
Muller should have chances either very early or late in the match to put Germany on top.
Andre Schurrle, M
The Chelsea star’s brace in the 7-1 destruction of Brazil capped his tournament as a success. Other than Mario Gotze, he’s the youngest midfielder on the German side but has played far beyond his years.
If Muller or Gotze is contained, Schurrle could be Germany’s next best option.
Philipp Lahm, D
Team captain Lahm is one of four Germans who made the shortlist of nominees for the Golden Ball, but many feel he’s had a below average run this year.
Lahm can quickly silence any critics with a solid game against La Albiceleste. How he leads the backline against Argentine playmakers Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano will be a huge key to the match, and Germany’s attempt at a fourth Cup.