RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Germany and Argentina plotted battle tactics for the World Cup final Friday as Brazil prepared for an unwanted third place play-off with the Netherlands.
With two days to the Maracana Stadium showpiece, both finalists were at their respective base camps seeking to keep the lid on mounting tensions and skyrocketing expectations.
The final is the latest in a series of World Cup encounters between Germany and Argentina which includes the 1986 and 1990 finals.
Memories of the two sides’ stormy 2006 meeting — which ended in a brawl after Germany’s victory on penalties — were revived Friday.
German team manager Oliver Bierhoff said he had warned players to keep cool if tempers fray in the Maracana.
“The Argentinians are very warm people and great hosts, but on the pitch they have a bit of a personality change and get fired up,” said Bierhoff.
“They have fire in their eyes, which we will have to be ready for and not provoke them.
“They play hard, aggressive physical football, which means we can’t steer away from our football philosophy and must focus on what we have to do.”
Bierhoff said the Germans were preparing for a tougher challenge than their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semi-finals.
“They defend deep, leave little space to run into and wait for (Lionel) Messi to show a moment of magic,” said Bierhoff.
“We have to play our own game, run the extra mile and not give them the space they need.”
FIFA meanwhile announced that Italy’s Nicola Rizzoli would referee Sunday’s final.
Rizzoli, 42, had been seen as an outside bet as he comes from Europe. His previous assignments include the 2013 UEFA Champions League final between Germany’s Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
The World Cup finalists meanwhile provided seven of the 10 players on FIFA’s shortlist for player of the tournament.
Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria were included from Argentina with Germany represented by skipper Phillip Lahm, five-goal scorer Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, and Mats Hummels.
Germany’s Manuel Neuer and Argentine counterpart Sergio Romero both made the shortlist for best goalkeeper along with Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas.
Argentina trained behind closed doors as they readied to head for Rio, where an estimated army of 100,000 Argentine fans have travelled ahead of Sunday’s clash.
A vast security blanket comprising some 26,000 police, soldiers and private security guards will be deployed across the city and in the Maracana, Brazil’s justice minister said.
On Saturday, Brazil and the Netherlands will contest the third-place play-off in Brasilia, with both teams struggling to raise their spirits after disappointing semi-final losses.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal condemned the unpopular fixture after his team were beaten on penalties by Argentina on Wednesday.
“I think this match should never be played,” van Gaal told reporters. “I’ve been saying this for 10 years. But we’ll just have to play this match.
However on Friday the 62-year-old was putting a brave face on the game.
“We are going to do everything to finish third,” he told a press conference in Brasilia.
“We want to leave the World Cup unbeaten, something a Dutch side has never achieved.”
Brazilian fullback Daniel Alves was underwhelmed by the fixture however.
“The important thing is first place. Nothing else matters,” said the right-back.
Meanwhile, the Vatican called for a truce in wars around the globe during Sunday’s final, taking to social media with the hashtag #pauseforpeace as a conflict in the Gaza Strip escalates and killings continue in Ukraine.