By CHRIS LEHOURITES
2014-07-14 03:42 AM
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- The World Cup final kicked off at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday with Germany wearing its traditional white shirts and Argentina playing in dark blue.
With Lionel Messi in the starting lineup, Argentina will have one of the best players in history on the field. The four-time world player of the year has had a stellar World Cup so far, and a win on Sunday will give him the one major title he is missing.
For Germany, a team led by Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger is trying to finally win a major trophy after a nearly 20-year wait. But they'll have to do it without Sami Khedira, the Real Madrid midfielder who was ruled out of the final only minutes before kickoff and was replaced by Christoph Kramer.
The Germans, whose last major title came at the 1996 European Championship, reached the World Cup final in 2002 and the semifinals in 2006. They also reached the final at Euro 2008 and the semifinals at Euro 2012.
Historically, however, Germany has been a repeat winner. The national team is trying to win its fourth World Cup, but the first for a united country. West Germany won in 1954, 1974 and 1990, while a united Germany lost in the 2002 final to Brazil.
Argentina is a two-time champion, winning titles in 1978 and 1986.
The last World Cup title for each team came against the other. The Argentines, led by Diego Maradona, beat West Germany in Mexico in the 1986 final, while the Germans leveled the series by winning four years later in Italy.
Sunday's match is something of a tiebreaker, and it comes at one of the most iconic football venues in the world.