The FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 reaches its climax in St. Petersburg on Sunday night when Chile take on Germany in the final.
South American champions Chile face World Cup winners Germany for the second time at Russia 2017, with the teams having met in the group stage in Kazan, where they played out a 1-1 draw.
Both teams are contesting their first Confederations Cup final. Germany’s best previous result was a third-place finish as hosts in 2005, while Chile are tournament debutants.
Chile reached the final after a penalty shootout win in their semifinal against Portugal in Kazan, while Germany overcame Mexico 4-1 in Sochi.
Joachim Low’s young German team – who have an average age of just 24 years and four months – have claimed plaudits throughout the tournament for their exciting attacking play.
Players such as midfielder Leon Goretzka, 22, and striker Timo Werner, 21 – both of whom are in the hunt for the Golden Boot on three goals each – have shone in the absence of more established stars Low has opted to rest.
While Chile have not hit the attacking heights of the Germans, they have proved as dogged and resilient as ever throughout the tournament.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team have star quality in midfield general Arturo Vidal and striker Alexis Sanchez, but they also have a host of unsung heroes such as veteran defenders Gary Medel and Jean Beausejour.
Chile have the oldest average age ever seen at a Confederations Cup tournament, at 29 years and one month.
As well as being billed as a match-up between youth and experience, it could also be viewed as attack versus defense.
Germany have netted 11 times in four games at Russia 2017, conceding five goals, while Chile have let in just two goals in their four games at the Tournament of Champions, scoring four times (excluding penalty shootouts).
The first match between the two teams in Kazan saw Chile dominate the opening stages and take the lead through Alexis Sanchez – who become his county’s record goal scorer in the process – but Germany hit back through a flowing team move finished by Lars Stindl just before half-time.
That game was seen as something of an acid test for Low’s young German team, and since then they have gone from strength to strength in Russia.
Their semifinal performance against Mexico was particularly impressive in the way they were content to allow the opposition possession but were ruthlessly efficient when on the counter-attack.
Chile looked labored in their final group game versus Australia, but were solid in their semifinal against Portugal and finished strongly in that game, having numerous chances to win in the closing stages. Claudio Bravo, the captain, was also in inspired form, saving all three Portuguese spot-kicks.
Pizzi has been consistent with his team selection throughout the tournament, and is likely to stick with the team that lined up against Portugal in the semifinal, with Bravo in goal, Beausejour, Gonzalo Jara, Medel and Isla across a back four, with Marcelo Diaz just in front of them and Vidal, Pablo Hernandez and Charles Aranguiz in midfield and Eduardo Vargas and Sanchez up front.
Low has been less predictable with his selections, particularly in defense, although Marc-Andre ter Stegen looks set to start in goal, while any three from Antonio Ruediger, Matthias Ginter, Niklas Sule and Shkodran Mustafi could start at the back.
Joshua Kimmich is in prime spot to start as right wingback, while Jonas Hector or Sebastian Rudy could line up on the left flank.
Julian Draxler will skipper the team as an attacking midfielder, and Goretzka also looks sure to start in midfield, with the other spots up for grabs. Timo Werner and Lars Stindl – on three and two goals for the tournament respectively, should start as strikers.
It’s the first time either side will have played at Saint Petersburg Stadium.
Chile have played two games in Moscow and two in Kazan thus far, while Germany have played three games in Sochi and one in Kazan.
The current World Cup winners boast the better head to head record on three wins and one draw in the four previous meetings between the two teams.
The Germans are also unbeaten since they lost to France in the semifinal at Euro 2016 almost a year ago.
Pizzi’s Chile team, though, have experience of big tournament finals, having won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina on penalties both times.
There will be a new name on the Confederations Cup trophy tonight, although it will be a close call as to whose it is.