RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Argentina and Germany were both back at work on Thursday, secretly hatching their plans for Sunday’s World Cup final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
While their contrasting styles promise a classic battle between Europe and South America, they have left both teams with plenty to think about as they put the finishing touches to their preparations.
Lionel Messi and his Argentina team mates had a light workout after they returned to their base camp in Belo Horizonte after Wednesday’s dramatic penalty shootout win over the Netherlands.
Germany were also back on the training pitch at their secluded base camp in Santo Andre after taking Wednesday off following their 7-1 thrashing of host-nation Brazil on Tuesday.
Defender Mats Hummels was cleared to rejoin his team mates after undergoing treatment for a knee injury that prompted him to miss the second half of the semi.
With the team only having a gentle run-out, Germany’s assistant coach Hansi Flick said Hummels was free to do what he wanted.
“All the players will be able to train, whether it’s on an exercise bike or on the pitch - whichever they prefer,” Flick said. “It’s up to each individual to decide what they want to do in training.”
Germany’s biggest challenge remains how to contain Messi, who has been heavily marked throughout the tournament but still looms as the big danger.
The Germans sat down together to watch the second semi-final and were impressed at how the Dutch managed to neutralize Messi.
Flick said they had cooked up their own strategy to deal with Messi, but the details would remain a closely-guarded secret.
“We’ve also got a plan,” he told a news conference. “But we’re not going to reveal that here to you.”
Left back Benedikt Hoewedes said the Germans were also trying to keep a lid on the mounting expectations in their homeland after the mind-boggling win over Brazil.
It has been 24 years since Germany last won the World Cup, coincidentally against Argentina in 1990, but Hoewedes said the players were not taking anything for granted and maintaining a very focused approach.
“We know that we’re considered the favorites,” he said.
“The team is clever enough to avoid being led astray by that tag. We’re not going to let any external factors distract us.”
Preparations were also underway for the third-place playoff in Brasilia on Saturday with Brazil and the Netherlands in very different states of mind.
The hosts are under enormous pressure to gain a minor consolation win following the Germany debacle, while Dutch coach Louis van Gaal said he did not believe the playoff match should be played so his side may struggle for motivation.
Away from the pitch, Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, banned from all soccer activity for four months and nine competitive internationals for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World, lost his appeal.
FIFA rejected the appeal filed by the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF), although it can still take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), a FIFA spokeswoman said.
Police in Rio were searching for the chief executive of a Swiss hospitality company implicated by an investigation into the illegal resale of VIP World Cup tickets.
After a court ordered the arrest of the executive and the continued detention of 10 other suspects already held in the probe, police were unable to find Ray Whelan, of MATCH Services, a company contracted by tournament organizers to arrange ticketing and hospitality packages.
Whelan, who was briefly arrested earlier in the week and released pending a court order, was not present when police arrived at the luxurious beachside hotel where he had been staying in Rio.
Police told Globo, Brazil’s biggest television network, that Whelan, who has denied any wrongdoing, was filmed leaving through a back door on hotel security footage.
Editing by Ed Osmond