Germany defeat Argentina in extra-time, claim World Cup title

Substitute Mario Goetze won Germany their fourth World Cup with a late, late goal in extra-time to down Argentina 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro.

Goetze, who had been a late substitute in this game himself, took a ball over his shoulder from Andre Schurrle and volleyed it home in the 113th minute to beat Argentine keeper Sergio Romero.

”It’s an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know how to describe it. You just shoot that goal in, you don’t really know what’s happening,” Goetze said. ”And then at the end of the match, having a party with the team, the whole country … it is for us, a dream come true.”

With the win, Germany became the first European team to win a South American World Cup, ending a hex that had stood for 84 years. It was also the third time that the Germans had ended Argentina’s World Cup hopes — and possibly the cruelest. But just as the best two teams at this World Cup ended up in the final, the best team won it.

"This is the result of many years’ work beginning with Jurgen Klinsmann and we continued that," said Germany boss Joachim Low after the victory. "Over the years we have been able to improve our performance and it has been 10 years of tough preparation. We are proud to win it here in Brazil, the footballing country par excellence, and to be the first European team to win in Latin America."

2014 WORLD CUP FINAL

The last time these two sides met in a World Cup final was 1990. George Bush was president, "Driving Miss Daisy" won the Oscar for best picture — and the game was dreadful. When the lineups were announced pre-game, those of us with long memories groaned. Alejandro Sabella had not offered up Angel di Maria or Sergio Aguero, and this seemed another game Argentina would stifle rather than open up.

But this was no re-run. Instead, it was arguably the best World Cup final seen in an age, a perfect capper to what had been a wide-open and free-scoring World Cup. What changed things was an injury for Germany. Sami Khedira apparently tweaked something in warmups and the young Christoph Kramer had to come in in his stead. The absence of the creative Khedira, so instrumental in Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil, meant the removal of a major threat, and Argentina seized their chance.

From the opening whistle, Argentina defended the final third with tenacity, allowing Bastian Schweinsteiger to hold the ball, but closing down any man that dared to come within 30 yards of Romero’s goal. And they sprung a vicious counter-attack, with Lionel Messi showing a clean pair of heels to any man marking him.

Gonzalo Higuain had the chance of the half when Toni Kroos foolishly headed the ball back in Manuel Neuer’s direction, only to see the striker pounce on it. But Kroos’ blushes were spared when Higuain badly scuffed his shot, failing to even put it on frame. Higuain would put the ball in the net minutes later — but this time the flag was up, and correctly so.

Kramer’s stint on the field would not last more than 20 minutes. Injured in an early and accidental clash with Ezequiel Garay, the midfielder looked woozy but was allowed to continue. After Higuain’s goal was chalked off, he collapsed, and had to be carried off. His injury will again add fuel to the debate over concussions in the sport as, in truth, he should never have been allowed to continue on.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Benedikt Howedes was carded after a vicious tackle on Pablo Zabaleta that was high and late, and was lucky to be allowed to remain on the field. But he would have Germany’s best chance of the half, pinging a header off the post in first half stoppage off a corner kick. He should have done better as he had lost his marker and had Romero beat.

After the break, Sabella gambled, yanking the inventive Ezequiel Lavezzi for the oft-injured but deadly Manchester City star Aguero. It nearly paid immediate dividends, as, freed up to attack from a more central role, Messi just missed picking out the far post in the 47th minute. But following that cameo, Messi seemed to tighten up, and he was seen holding his left hamstring. He would only appear in fits and starts thereafter, and the locals in the crowd would mock him as he faded.

Germany were unable to really get their high-powered offense moving through the gears. Miroslav Klose, playing in what is surely his final World Cup match, was nearly a man and a half-step behind every cross. Kroos, usually so measured in his deliveries, was also off the pace of the game. And Muller, who has been Germany’s greatest weapon, really never flared into life. Kroos would miss a fine chance with ten left in regulation, scuffing a gorgeous cut-back from Mesut Ozil into the advertising.

In extra-time, exhaustion began to play a role as the Germans inched forward. Schurrle nearly stole the lead at the start, forcing a save from Romero after a well-worked move with Goetze. Rodrigo Palacio had a sniff seven minutes later, chesting down a ball from Marcus Rojo and lobbing Neuer — but also missing the net.

Schweinsteiger took a bad cut under the eye in a collision with Aguero in the second half of extra-time but was able to return. And then, with the German bench leaping off their sideline to confront referee Nicola Rizzoli over the foul, the sweeping counter-attack the Germans have been known for at this World Cup fired into action.

”This was our chance, and we felt that way. We couldn’t do it. We have to lift our heads and suffer the pain,” Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said. ”Obviously, the pain is tremendous.”

History will remember this as a chance missed for Messi, who looked jaded and tired for much of the match. But they should remember it as a tournament won by a great team that also looks like being the next European dynasty. Germany had the toughest path to get to this final — and they still overcame all comers.

—-

Lineups  

Germany: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Hoewedes; Christoph Kramer (Andre Schurrle, 32), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil (Per Mertesacker, 120); Miroslav Klose (Mario Gotze, 88).

Argentina: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Martin Demichelis, Marcos Roja; Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez (Fernando Gago, 86), Lucas Biglia; Ezequiel Lavezzi (Sergio Aguero, 46), Lionel Messi; Gonzalo Higuain (Rodrigo Palacio, 78).