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In the World Cup 2014, the semi-finals were held on 8th/9th July, and the final will be on 13th July. This gives Germany an extra day to rest/prepare compared to Argentina.

This has been mentioned by the Argentinian coach, Alejandro Sabella:

Some of our players are sore, beaten, tired - the results of a war, so to speak. We have a final to play, with one day less to prepare and against a team like Germany, but with work, humility and seriousness, we'll do all we can to make it all the way to the top

Statistically, based on previous matches/tournaments, is there a proven advantage in having the extra preparation time?

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If the final were on the 10th, Germany would definitely have the edge. I'm not sure if there's such a difference, or any difference at all if we extend the delay to 5/4 days. –  Bluefire Jul 11 at 12:57
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From a quick wikipedia scan of World Cup Finals it seems the semifinals of '94, '86 and before were held on the same day, and since '90 the team with 5 rest days always lost to the team with 4 rest days except in 2006, where the final ended in a draw after extra time (with the "more rested" Italians winning the penalty shootout). –  arne.b Jul 11 at 14:00
    
^Seems like a solid enough response to be an answer, @arne.b –  Nicholas V. Jul 11 at 14:26

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

1994 and before, World Cup semifinals often took place on the same day, so one team had only a few hours more preparation time than the other. When semifinals did not take place on the same day, the team with the extra rest day most often lost. Here is a list with the team with 5 days between semifinal and final first, team with 4 days second:

 1966: West Germany - England      2-4 aet
 1990: Argentina    - West Germany 0-1
 1998: Brazil       - France       0-3
 2002: Germany      - Brazil       0-2
*2006: Italy        - France       1-1 aet (4-3)*
 2010: Netherlands  - Spain        0-1 aet
*2014: Germany      - Argentina    1-0 aet*

Only twice did the team with more preparation time win, and this team did not win in regular time. The latter instance of the two also seems to be the only time when the later semifinal went into extra time while the earlier one did not.

The very first world cup final was four and three days, resp., after the semifinals, and also won by the team with fewer time to prepare.

1930: Argentina    - Uruguay   2-4

Interesting side observation: The third place match was won by the team in the same semifinal as the eventual champion every time except 1990 (host Italy came third after being knocked out by eventual final loser Argentina) and 2014 (Netherlands, despite professing lack of motivation beforehand, beat Brazil, who had apparently not recovered from a severe semifinal loss against eventual champion Germany).

While these may not be enough observations to establish that less preparation time is actually useful, one can likely rule out a significant advantage. The results of the four most recent European Championships and Copa Américas is in fact even: 2 wins each for the team from the earlier semifinal, 2 for the one from the later one.

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Good answer! Would have accepted earlier, but was in too much of a rush, betting my life savings on a win for Argentina ;-) –  Fillet Jul 14 at 8:08
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It might be worth adding to this answer that both these trends were broken in this year's World Cup final matches, now that those matches have been played. –  David Z Jul 14 at 22:42

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