Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Germany vs. Brazil to Pit Grit vs. Flare

APBrazil's star strikers Rivaldo, left, and Ronaldo talking at training Thursday ahead of the World Cup final against Germany in Japan.
SEOUL, South Korea -- After a month of thrills, upsets and conspiracy theories, the World Cup reaches its climax Sunday with Brazil and Germany, the two most successful teams in the tournament's history, fighting it out for the famous gold trophy at the International Stadium in Yokohama, Japan.

Surprisingly, this weekend's final will be the first meeting between two sides that have played in 170 World Cup games and won the tournament seven times between them. And although both teams are shadows of some of their predecessors, the match at least promises an interesting match-up between European grit and South American flair.

Despite their pedigree in winning three World Cups, the Germans were not expected to do well this year, and they deserve respect for the determination with which they have come back from a 5-1 drubbing by England last September and survived the pre-tournament loss of important players like Sebastian Deisler, Mehmet Scholl and Jens Nowotny to reach their seventh final.

"A couple of weeks ago, when we were playing Ireland and Cameroon, nobody expected us to reach the last 16 even," coach Rudi Voller said after Germany's semifinal victory over South Korea on Tuesday.

While it is possible to respect the Germans, however, it is difficult to admire them. Their stultifying style of play has added little to a tournament in which they have been fortunate not to meet a single top-ranked side before the final.

Two bright spots for Germany have been captain Oliver Kahn, who has been the best goalkeeper in the tournament, and midfielder Michael Ballack, who scored the winning goals in his country's 1-0 victories over the United States and South Korea. Ballack, however, will miss the final after receiving a yellow card Tuesday for hacking down Korean forward Lee Chun-soo as he bore down on goal. His place will likely go to workhorse Jens Jeremies, which would make the Germans even duller to watch.

Although the Brazilians have not been immune to some gamesmanship themselves, they are at least committed to playing exciting, attacking football, as can be seen by their tactic of picking three forwards at the expense of an extra midfielder.

This formation is both Brazil's strength and its weakness. While the forward trio of Ronaldinho, who will return to the side after serving a one-match suspension, Ronaldo and Rivaldo has awesome attacking potential, the fact that Brazil has just two men to knit the team together in midfield has led to some disjointed performances.

Nevertheless, Brazil was starting to play with more fluency in its 1-0 victory over Turkey on Wednesday, and Rivaldo was in irrepressible form. When he is shooting, passing and dribbling as he was in the semifinal, Rivaldo is a wonderful player to watch, which makes it all the more disappointing that he has sullied his performances in this tournament with some unnecessary playacting.

His striking partner Ronaldo, on the other hand, is a class act.

Since breaking down on the eve of the 1998 World Cup final with a mystery illness, Ronaldo has endured four miserable years of devastating injuries, without which he would almost certainly be regarded by now as one of the finest center-forwards to have played the game.

No one would begrudge him the chance to put right in Yokohama everything that went wrong in Paris four years ago, when Brazil lost 3-0 to host France.