The formula for Argentina ascending into the World Cup final is as obvious as the formula for Coca-Cola is secretive: Play superb defense and hope Lionel Messi can summon the wizardry to manufacture a goal.
So the most significant of five ways, spelled out below, to defeat Germany might sound counterintuitive for a team that has not conceded a goal in the knockout rounds.
-- Jump into attack mode from the get-go and try to steal an early goal. A Germany lead is gold because, once ahead, the team essentially forms two back lines, one of them with its array of midfielders, that are difficult to penetrate. Besides, any underdog should consider an unpredictable tactic. The Argentines could fall back eventually into their comfort zone.
-- Exploit an edge in speed. This ties in to the previous objective. Germany is slow, which is the downside of its height, and the back line is susceptible to fast midfielders and forwards. Do not worry about winning the ball possession statistic by tapping it around without movement. Pass with purpose.
-- Get Angel Di Maria healthy. A thigh strain is no ideal injury for a wind-up doll like Di Maria, but he can make something happen better than any teammate in tandem with Messi. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Enzo Perez have not been up to the task.
-- Remind Messi that the next hour and a half (or two hours) of soccer can elevate him from the premier current player to contending for the best ever, at least to those who regard a Cup title as the gatekeeper. Not that he doesn't already know this, but a hint would reinforce the notion.
-- Thrive on the support of Argentine fans, who will provide a semi-home-field advantage. And be aware of a bonus: winning the tournament with rival Brazil as the host.