Napoli boss Rafa Benitez insists “there are no favourites” in the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina.
It kicks off tonight in Rio de Janeiro at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT) with Napoli players Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Fernandez.
“I don’t know about you, but I struggle to find a favourite in the World Cup Final,” wrote Benitez for the Corriere dello Sport.
“A game like this, when Germany and Argentina are on the field, cannot push you to believe either side is – on paper – superior to the other. You can think there are some details that might favour one team, but you cannot make such a clear and risky judgment.”
Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1 in their semi-final, while Argentina only got past the Netherlands on penalties and haven’t won by more than a one-goal margin throughout the tournament.
“It is certainly true that Germany have been the most impressive since their first game a month ago,” continued the Coach.
“They are impressive physically, tactically and above all in attack with captivating possession, while their defence was hardly ever tested.
“However, tonight we have the game that will appoint the world champions, so they are facing Leo Messi, Higuain and Sergio Aguero (although more likely only two out of the three aces).
“There can be no tougher test, no more dangerous opponents and no more explosive combination to contain.
“Finals are in general different games with a psychological interpretation that goes beyond normality. We also have two teams with a very different way of approaching the game, something they showed from the very start.
“I don’t think this time, despite common belief in these circumstances, that the game will be dominated by fear of defeat. Germany have never shown that in this World Cup, while Argentina have above all in three men the characters to throw caution to the wind.
“I feel that Germany and Argentina will shake off the perfectly understandable worry in certain moments and dare to try, to seek a target of a lifetime.
“This is The Game, so the Germans and South Americans are both studying it to put their opponents under pressure, seeking to heighten their strengths and pounce on weaknesses. I am convinced Germany and Argentina will play to win rather than to avoid defeat.”
Benitez pointed out that whatever the outcome in Rio tonight, history will be made.
“We have a European team that feels the concrete possibility of taking the World Cup in South America. That would be the first time.
“Germany are also aware they must close down ‘those three’ fantastic players in attack, as Argentina have dragged themselves to within touching distance of the World Cup, funnily enough right in Brazil.
“Whatever happens tonight, history will be made.”