West Germany and Italy, which played one of the greatest games in soccer history nearly 12 years ago to the day, will play before 95,000 fans in Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium Sunday to see which will tie Brazil's record of three World Cup championships.
The game is rated a tossup, with both teams having played poorly in some early-round games but excellently in at least one second-round game or the semifinal.
In addition to the huge stadium crowd, which will include such dignitaries as West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Italian President Sandro Pertini, an estimated 1.3 billion viewers around the world will look on via live television. The final will be aired in the United States by ABC-TV (WJLA-TV-7, 1:30 p.m.) and several cable services.
Scalpers are expected to ask 10 times or more than face value for prime tickets.
Both Giancarlo Antognoni of Italy, who was hurt in the semifinal, and West Germany's Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has had an injured thigh muscle since early in the first round, are expected to play.
Antognoni is Italy's key play maker in midfield, and Rummenigge is a central figure in the West German attack. Rummenigge and Italy's Paolo Rossi are the tournament's top scorers with five goals each; Rossi scored all his goals in the last two games.
Italian Coach Enzo Bearzot said Antognoni might play with special foam rubber protection in his right shoe. "We need his class in midfield against the Germans, so every effort will be made to have him in the starting lineup," Bearzot said.
Other key players to watch are West German play maker Paul Breitner, winger Pierre Littbarski and sweeper Uli Stielike, and for Italy, Claudio Gentile, a tough defender who was suspended for the semifinal for getting two yellow cards.
If the teams can approach the level of play in their 1970 semifinal game in Mexico, then Sunday's matchup should be memorable. In a game that went back and forth and finally was settled in overtime, Italy won, 4-3. The exhausted Italians lost the final to Brazil, 4-1.
To get to the deciding game, Italy stopped defending champion Argentina and upset tournament favored Brazil before edging Poland, 2-0, in an uninspired semifinal. Zbignew Boniek, Poland's star striker, had to sit out that match with a one-game suspension, which proved to be a major factor.
The West Germans have improved steadily after opening the tournament with a disappointing 2-1 upset by Algeria. After soundly beating a weak Chilean team, the Germans edged Austria, 1-0, in a listless game.
In the second round, West Germany held a tough English team to a 0-0 tie, then looked sharp in defeating Spain, 2-1. In its semifinal, it staged an amazing overtime comeback to tie a talented French team, 3-3, then won a round of deciding penalty kicks, 5-4. Rummenigge had sat out most of the game, but was inserted into the lineup during the overtime period and scored a goal.
If the overtime did not take too much out of the Germans, their consistent improvement would seem to give them a slight edge.
Italy's second-place finish in 1970 was its best World Cup performance since the 1930s, when Italy won its two championships.
West Germany won the cup in 1954 in Switzerland with an upset over Hungary, and won at home in 1974 against Holland. Only Breitner remains from the West German team that won in 1974.
Under Coach Jupp Derwall, West Germany has not lost to a European team in the last four years. But West Germany has not played Italy since 1978 and has defeated the Italians only once in nine games since 1940.
If neither team wins during 90 minutes of regulation time or two 15-minute overtime periods, the game will be replayed Tuesday.