Before this World Cup began, many football experts predicted that there wouldn't be a new winner this year. They were right. But one month ago, the buzz was all about previous champs Argentina, France, Italy and England, plus elegant party-crashers Portugal. Almost nobody thought Brazil and Germany would be fighting it out in the final. Sure, the pundits said, you can never count either country out entirely. But this year's teams from the two countries are neither their best nor their most-loved, and both struggled just to qualify, and besides, shouldn't some less successful nation get a turn as champion?
On paper, Sunday's final is a dream match-up: South America's most successful team ever versus Europe's most successful team ever, playing for football's biggest prize on a neutral continent.
Brazil will probably be the favourites. Depressingly for fans, Germany will be missing their offensive catalyst Michael Ballack through suspension, but the essence of the match remains the same: the tournament's most prolific and creative offence against its stingiest defence and best goalkeeper, captain Oliver Kahn.
Don't expect the whole match to be played in Germany's half of the field, though. The Germans will use their strength and size to break up plays in their defensive end, win the ball in the midfield, and get it up front quickly against a Brazilian back line that still probably spends a little too much time going forward.
Brazil, on the other hand, are ... well, Brazil. This year again they have been the most consistently attractive team in the tournament with their creativity, ball control, ability to maintain possession, and threatening moves in front of goal. They're the only team to have won every game they've played in the tournament. Germany haven't been behind at any point in their previous six matches, so we don't know how they'll react if they go a goal down. Will they have the firepower and adventurous spirit to throw everything forward?
My dream final-an attractive, entertaining match-would have Germany scoring the first goal, preferably in the first half. They'd then have to withstand an hour or so of desperate Brazilian attack, surely giving Kahn ample opportunity to shine. If Germany gets the first one I think it's anybody's game, but if I had to predict I see Brazil beating Germany 2-1; for effect, let's say it'll be on a golden goal in extra time.