SAINT PETERSBURG: World Cup holders Germany face Copa America winners Chile in Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) Confederations Cup final in St Petersburg.
Here are five areas in the battle for the trophy:
Crucial first 15 minutes
When the teams drew 1-1 in the group stages ten days ago, an early mistake in the German defense allowed Alexis Sanchez to put Chile ahead after only six minutes, before Lars Stindl equalized.
In St Petersburg, the Germans want no repeat of their early slip-up.
“In the first 15 minutes we were caught off balance which was why we didn’t win in the end,” admitted Germany captain Julian Draxler.
Chile are masters of holding possession, but likewise La Roja need to be on their guard against the fleet-footed Germans who like to dominate the ball.
Germany flew out of the traps in Thursday’s 4-1 semifinal win over Mexico as Leon Goretzka scored twice in the first dazzling eight minutes in Sochi.
Stindl put away Germany’s only real chance against Chile ten days ago and his side routed Mexico in the semi-final despite creating only 12 goal chances compared to the 25 shots the Mexicans forged.
When the teams met in Kazan, Chile had four shots on goal, compared to Germany’s three, and chances promise to again be few and far between in the final.
Head coach Joachim Loew says the key will be disrupting Chile’s forwards Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas to make sure they don’t get in behind the German defense.
“We need to make sure Chile’s flexible, excellent attacking line is controlled,” said Loew.
“Chile could have conceded two early goals (in their semifinal win over Portugal) and it will be very important to control the match early on.”
After the semi-finals, Germany had a day less recovery than Chile, but stand to be fresher than the South Americans, who could not beak the deadlock over 120 minutes against Portugal before winning 3-0 on penalties.
In the 1-1 group stage draw, Chile’s huge physical effort in the first-half meant they dropped their tempo after the break and the youthful Germans finished stronger.
That said, Chile ran until the 120th minute against Portugal when Vidal and Martin Rodriguez both hit the crossbar late.
“It’s true we played an extra 30 minutes in the semi-final, but at this level, issues of motivation can cover any physical shortfall or being tired,” said coach Juan Antonio Pizzi.
“Energy levels won’t be decisive and we have recovered very well.”
Age is against Chile.
The German’s are 24 on average, compared to La Roja’s 29 years.
When the teams last met, Chile controlled the ball for large chunks of the first-half, to repeatedly break the German defense.
When they lost the ball, Germany controlled the midfield and Chile lost their fluidity.
A key battle is brewing between Germany’s Sebastian Rudy and Chile’s Arturo Vidal, who run the middle for their respective teams.
“Chile will try to build up as much pressure as possible, so we need to see that we are able to liberate ourselves and create space,” said Loew.
“Chile is very good at moving the ball fast, so I hope we have the same agility and speed we showed against Mexico.”
Chile’s defense was so tight in the first-half of the Kazan clash that Stindl converted their only real chance when a speedy counter-attack unpicked the lock and Jonas Hector’s cross was tapped home.
Likewise, Germany showed they can defend well against Mexico, shutting down wave after wave of attacks until Marco Fabian’s freak long-range free-kick in the 89th minute.
Should the final go to penalties, Chile shot-stopper Claudio Bravo was heroic in saving all three of Portugal’s spot-kicks in the semi-final.
However, the Germans last lost a penalty shoot-out in 1976.
“Chile have excellent players who can score from the spot and Claudio Bravo seems to be a real penalty-killer in that sense, but I am not afraid of penalties at all,” said Loew.