Super Mario wins it for Germany
Monday, 14th July 2014 at 09:24am
Mario Gtze came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in extra time as Germany overcame a dogged Argentina to secure their fourth World Cup win.
Gtze's goal came in 113th minute after neither side was able to make the breakthrough in the 90 minutes with both sides guilty of missing good chances.
The Bayern Munich star's goal ensured that the Germans won their first world crown since they beat the same opposition by the same score line back in 1990 and also ends a run of 18 years without a trophy since they lifted Euro '96 at Wembley.
It's the first time that a side from Europe has won the World Cup in Latin America and also the third straight final that has gone to extra time.
German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who was perhaps fortunate to remain on the field after a dangerous challenge on Gonzalo Higuain, won the Golden Gloves award as the tournament's best goalkeeper, Colombian star James Rodriguez won the Golden Shoe after scoring six goals in five games, while a below par and somewhat bemused Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball, the prize given to the player judged the best in the tournament.
It was ironic that Messi received the trophy despite being below his brilliant best in the final and having now gone four games without scoring for the first time under coach Alejandro Sabella.
Many have commented that the Argentine star has looked exhausted in the past few games and a long season certainly looked to have caught up with him as on several occasions he seemed happy just to let the game bypass him.
That wasn't the case for Gtze who took his chance with aplomb after coach Joachim Lw told him to show the world he was better than Messi.
He wouldn't have had the opportunity had Argentina not been so profligate in front of goal, however.
The German's were forced into a late change after Sami Khedira was ruled out and Christoph Kramer was drafted in to make his first World Cup start before he too was left dazed by colliding with Ezequiel Garay's shoulder and later had to be substituted himself.
Perhaps that disruption unsettled the Germans as they gifted the two-time champions a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring courtesy of a rare mistake from one of the tournament's star players, Toni Kroos.
The Real Madrid-bound midfielder headed the ball into the no man's land between Mats Hummels and Neuer only to see it fall to Gonzalo Higuain.
The striker's first touch was good but he snatched at the finish, dragging it wide and failing to test Neuer.
He thought he'd made amends minutes later when he produced the sort of measured finish that had previously been lacking earlier, converting Ezequiel Lavezzi's perfect cross.
The Napoli man embarked on a wild and lengthy celebration before realizing that he'd been rightly ruled offside.
The South Americans had the better of the opening exchanges with Messi buzzing around but as he faded and started dropping deeper, Germany began to grow into the match with the excellent Philipp Lahm and Thomas Mller causing a number of problems down the right.
They should have gone in at the break a goal up but Benedikt Hwedes could only find the post with his header after escaping the attentions of an otherwise brilliant Javier Mascherano, arguably Argentina's player of the tournament.
Hwedes himself may have been fortunate to still be on the pitch to miss that after a bad challenge on Pablo Zabaleta that saw him catch the fullback on his knee with his studs raised.
Argentina came out for the second half the more settled side and Messi missed a good chance to put his side in front after 48 minutes.
Lucas Biglia played a sumptuous ball through to Argentina's number 10 and despite transferring the ball to his magical left foot could only steer his effort six inches wide of Neuer's far post.
Neuer was soon involved in another flashpoint as he charged from his line to punch clear. In doing so his knee connected strongly with the face of Higuain who, astonishingly, saw a free kick awarded against him.
It was slightly reminiscent of Harold Schumacher's attempted decapitation of Patrick Battiston although it was clear Neuer only had eyes for the ball.
That said, had a defender attempted a headed clearance so robustly there's little doubt a they would have been penalized and shown at least a yellow card for dangerous play.
Higuain was substituted shortly afterwards with Rodrigo Palacio replacing him before Gtze came on for Miroslav Kose, bringing the curtain down on a World Cup career that saw him become the finals' all-time leading goal scorer with 16.
Neither side could find the breakthrough in regular time and so to extra time. Palacio missed a great chance in the first half of the extra 30 minutes but chose to lift the ball over the advancing Neuer rather than perhaps shooting for the corner.
The game appeared to be drifting for penalties with both sets of players showing signs of exhaustion, none more so than the brilliant Bastian Schweinsteiger who was battered, bruised and bloodied fighting for the cause.
But as it was four years ago, a solitary strike in extra time was all that was required. Andrea Schrrle, a replacement for the dazed Kramer, broke down Germany's left and his cross headed towards Gtze.
The substitute had peeled away from both Argentine centre halves but still had a lot of work to do when the ball arrived. With his first touch he controlled it on his chest and with his second hooked a delightful finish past Sergio Romero before embarking on wild celebrations.
Argentina tried to rally and there would have been more than a few nails chewed when Messi stood over a free kick in the dying moments but he could do no more than blaze it over the crossbar; the expression on his face afterwards said it all.
Moments later the full time whistle was blown and Germany had climbed to the top of the pile again.
Brazil president Dilma Rouseff was roundly booed as she handed the trophy to Germany captain Philipp Lahm who lifted the trophy as fireworks lit up the Rio sky.
Die Nationalmannschaft's win is the culmination of a plan that began 14 years ago after the country suffered humiliation at Euro 2000. The German Football Federation mapped out a plan to revamp the way Germany develops young players and after a couple of near misses, it has reaped the most delicious of rewards.