One of my favorite parts of this World Cup, and there’s been many, is reviewing the Expected Goals work of Michael Caley. Expected Goals (xG) fairly simply is an estimate on the total number of goals a team can expect to score or give up by assigning a value based on shot location, how the shot was created and other important factors.
I like xG because it can approximate the eye test, while also limiting the value of low probability shots and eliminating the randomness of whether a goal is scored or not, regardless of its expected outcome.
Here are the xG differentials for Germany and Argentina ahead of Sunday's World Cup Final:
With Sami Khedria and Bastian Schweinsteiger getting back to full health, Germany has so much depth of star quality in the midfield that they appear to be clear favorites against Argentina.
Ángel di María, meanwhile, is out for Argentina and they lose his two-way energy and competitiveness, which will make creating space for Lionel Messi even more difficult.
But Germany will play a far more open and aggressive match than Argentina saw from the Netherlands in which Messi was man marked for the first 60 minutes by Nigel de Jong. Argentina doesn't have the pace to truly test Germany's high line in which Manuel Neuer is exposed as a sweeper keeper who comes out of his box first and asks questions later, but Messi will have ample opportunities in space.
Argentina had a far more difficult match against the Netherlands and the way Louis van Gaal's side similarly dominated Brazil as Germany did in the semifinals does appropriately sober the equation in evaluating these two teams. Argentina also has far more quality in the midfield and organization in the back than Brazil.
Germany is peaking and has a genuine chemistry with so many Bayern Munich players; they are the closest thing to a club side in terms of balance even finding a true No. 9 in the ageless Miroslav Klose. But they also needed extra time before beating Algeria, tied Ghana and were far from dominant against the United States. We remember Germany's obliteration of the Lusophonic countries of Portugal and Brazil, but there was a time in this tournmanet in which Joackim Löw was being heavily scrutinized for his tactics.
Argentina was expected to be exposed with their defense while possessing the capacity to score in bunches with Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín behind Messi. It has been the opposite with Argentina winning ugly and winning in the clutch behind stable play of Javier Mascherano and the surprisingly capable play of Sergio Romero in goal keeping Alejandro Sabella's squad in every match to allow Messi to create his magic.
In his World Cup preview, which seems so long ago now, Yu Miyagawa wrote that the modern game is less Steve Jobs than it is Wikpedia. While there is certainly more to Argentina than simply Messi, but we're getting a Final that pits those two types of sides against each other to lift the trophy.