3 keys to victory for Argentina
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Argentina must maintain control of their defensive unit in order to combat the chaos that can be caused by the powerful German attack, who have already scored 17 goals (14 from open play and three from dead-ball situations). Here are three things on which they must focus in order to beat Germany.
1. Control the match
It all depends on how long Sergio Romero's goal remains unbreached. A repeat of the performances against Belgium and the Netherlands, both sides with renowned attackers who failed to cause any danger, would be ideal.
Javier Mascherano once again has a crucial role to play in what is a tough task. Joachim Low's side are a compact unit whose game is based on possession of the ball, and who come into the game with formidable momentum. The captain without an armband will need to work that little bit harder, if this is even possible.
Lucas Biglia, his partner in crime, will also be key in containing Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira. They can't be allowed to dominate the ball.
On the flanks, both Enzo Perez and Ezequiel Lavezzi need to keep an eye on the full-backs getting forward, so as not to leave Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo exposed.
For their part, Martin Demichelis and Ezequiel Garay need to keep playing well and ensure that Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller don't get any space inside the box. They're lethal.
The 0-4 defeat in Cape Town is still fresh in the memory, during which an inspired Schweinsteiger dominated the midfield which manager Diego Maradona had left vacant. Handing the initiative to this opponent, motivated and well-rested after the 7-1 victory over Brazil, could prove to be extremely dangerous.
Germany lead the way in passes completed during this tournament, with 3,421 and a completion rate of 82 percent. Argentina are in second place, with 2,928 and a completion rate of 78 percent. That's something to take heart from.
2. Offense must reappear
Next up, we look at the other end of the field, the attack. Argentina may have sacrificed this in the last few matches in order to achieve a more balanced formation. In spite of this, the FIFA statistics show a surprising figure. The Argentine side leads the way in attacks (311) while Germany are in fourth place (250).
Anything is possible with Lionel Messi. He's able to free himself from even the tightest marking and unlock a defense in the blink of an eye, as he did against Iran.
Gonzalo Higuain's good form is another reason to get excited. This is an ideal match in which to take advantage of speed on the counter-attack, and it will be a great shame if Angel Di Maria isn't able to play from the start.
3. Pressure up top
Pressure high up the field is key, as any errors can be taken advantage of. Lavezzi and Perez shouldn't drop so deep so as to cause no concern to their opposing fullbacks.
It's going to be hard for Zabaleta and Rojo to get forward early in the game. That's why dead-ball situations are so important. Garay has had at least one goalscoring opportunity in each game so far. He's got a great chance to finally finish one at the Maracana.
Nicolas Baier is senior editor based in Buenos Aires at ESPN.com/ Latin America. Nico is in charge of coverage of the Argentine National Team, having reported on Maradona's Argentina squad at World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Follow him on Twitter @NicolasBaier