On balance these have been the best teams in the tournament and it should be a very intriguing contest between two well-matched sides.
Paths to the final
The two sides then met in Kazan, where Alexis Sánchez gave Chile the lead early on before Lars Stindl scored just his second international goal – the first having come against Australia – just before half-time, with the game finishing 1-1.
Despite Kerem Demirbay only breaking the deadlock after the break, Germany eventually sealed top spot in the group with a 3-1 victory over Cameroon. Chile found things much harder against Australia, with Martín Rodríguez saving their blushes in the 1-1 draw after James Troisi gave the Socceroos the lead.
As runners-up of their group, Chile had to face Group A winners Portugal in their semi-final on Wednesday, with both sides failing to find the net in 120 minutes of football.
Claudio Bravo was the hero in the shootout, saving all three of Portugal’s penalties to send his side through. Germany had an easier time 24 hours later, dispatching Mexico 4-1 with an early double from Leon Goretzka setting them on their way.
Chile aim to become “best in the world”
Speaking ahead of the game, Chilean coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said that the side had met their “first objective” by reaching the final, but he was adamant that they now “want to compete to win it.”
He is not taking Germany for granted though, despite the absence of so many of their regulars. “They have a lot of experience despite their youth,” he said, “and that makes them a formidable opponent.” Singling out Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich, he said that in spite of his age he “is a central pillar of one of the best teams in the world.”
Another Bayern player, Arturo Vidal, believes his side have “proved our value” by beating sides like Argentina, in the last two Copa América finals, and Portugal in the semi in Russia – albeit all three times on penalties. With victory again Germany, he feels they will be “the best team in the world.”
Germany boss Joachim Löw is unsurprisingly focused on the bigger picture, saying that a win in the final here, as well as the under-21 team’s recent success, will be immaterial once the FIFA World Cup comes around in twelve months’ time.
He expects a game with “a lot of battle and intensity,” and expects Chile to play “tactically very flexibily” and put plenty of pressure on the ball. Both he and captain Julian Draxler believe they will have to be at the top of their game to win – “we need to be 100 per cent for the full 90 minutes," he emphasised.
Chile to stick, Löw to twist
Pizzi has a full quota of 23 players to choose from, however the indications are that he will stick with the team that started against Portugal. That would mean them sticking with a 4-3-1-2 formation, with winger José Pedro Fuenzalida, who started two of the group games, missing out.
The main men for Chile are of course Sánchez and Vidal, with the threat posed from midfielde by the latter all too clear to the German side. If the game goes all the way, Bravo could well stand between Germany and extending their 41-year unbeaten record in penalty shootouts.
Having chosen to rest his senior players, Löw has constantly shuffled his pack throughout the tournament, with only Draxler, Kimmich and Sebastian Rudy retaining their places throughout. Löw confirmed that there will be changes against Chile, but he did not disclose what they might be.
Shkodran Mustafi and Niklas Süle could come back into the defence though, with Kimmich perhaps being restored to the right wing-back role. Their apparent weakness is at the back, and will need strong performances from whoever gets the nod if they are to repel the physicality of their opponents. Mustafi of course knows all about his (current) club team mate Sánchez.
Going forward Goretzka and Timo Werner have shone when involved, not least against Mexico on Thursday night, and along with Draxler will have the power to hurt Chile. All three will surely be safe, but Stindl could be sacrificed for Demirbay or Julian Brandt if Löw wants some extra dynamism, or Emre Can for extra solidity.
Chile: (4-3-1-2) Bravo; Isla, Jara, Medel, Beausejour; Aránguiz, Díaz, Hernández; Vidal; Sánchez, Vargas.
Germany: (3-4-2-1) ter Stegen; Mustafi, Ginter, Süle; Kimmich, Goretzka, Rüdy, Hector; Stindl, Draxler; Werner.
Quotes via FIFA, ESPN, DFB and Sky Sports.