To be a great World Cup, perhaps one of the greatest, we needed a great final.
Could Germany and Argentina oblige? The world was watching and asking:
The last two World Cup finals have both gone to extra time. Are we on for a third one in a row?
Will Argentina’s extra efforts against the Netherlands the night after Germany won in a canter against Brazil be a factor?
Argentina haven’t been behind for a single minute of this World Cup. Suppose it happens?
Head coach Alejandro Sabella of Argentina looks on with Lionel Messi (photo: ar.fifa)
Will Lionel Messi lift the World Cup and thus gain the iconic status of Pele and Diego Maradona?
All those questions were answered 120 minutes after the game began when Germany won the game and the World Cup, edging Argentina 1-0 in extra time. Germany became the first European team to win the cup in South America. It was Germany’s fourth World Cup, tied with Italy and just one less than Brazil, and the first World Cup won by a united Germany since German reunification. It was then that they beat the same opponents in Rome 24 years ago.
Scores the World Cup winner Gotze.
And Mario Gotze became the toast of the nation, becoming the first player to score a winning goal as a substitute in a World Cup final.
Though only one goal was scored, and it came late into extra time, the final was anything but dull.
In the 20th minute, Argentina almost took the lead when Toni Kroos headed back a pass to his goalkeeper without looking, and Gonzalo Higuain was clean through. But Higuain panicked and hit it off his shin. A great opportunity but such a poor finish. Not to make the keeper make a save from that situation was criminal.
It obviously was not Higuain’s day. Nine minutes later he swept in a low cross from Ezequiel Lavezzi, then set off on a near lap of honour, but the flag was up. And it was the right call too. He was clearly offside.
Messi made his first dangerous move of the day when in the 39th minute, the little magician burst into space down the right, somehow twinkling his way into the penalty area and flicking it past Manuel Neuer, but Jerome Boateng was back to hack it away from inside the goalmouth.
The half did not end there. From the corner Benedikt Howedes was totally free. Six yards out, and he smashed a header against the post. The second big miss of the half.
Messi had an even better chance early in the second half when he got in behind, onside, wide out to the left of the penalty area. He hit a low shot, the ball beat Neuer – and beat the far post. A fraction wide. The right man in the right place. The wrong result.
With less than 10 minutes to go, Germany were close again. Philipp Lahm freed Mesut Ozil down the right. The Arsenal man got his head up nice and early and found Kroos on the edge of the box. Kroos had time, went for the early side-footer, but passed it tame and wide.
In extra time, Andre Schurrle, who scored at the start of extra time against Algeria, had a chance but lashed in a shot straight at Sergio Romero.
Argentina replied with a chance of its own in the 96th minute. Mats Hummels got right under a cross from the left, but got it all wrong to allow Rodrigo Palacio in.Neuer was out in a flash though, getting right in Palacio’s face and forcing him to chip it wide.
The winner came from Super Mario. Eight minutes from penalties, Schurrle sprinted down the left, showing rare energy at that stage of the game. His cross found Gotze, who took it on his chest and then flashed the volley across Romero and into the corner.
It was a fantastic goal. That’s how you become a hero. Gotze had the composure to provide a brilliant finish that deserves to win a World Cup final.
You might argue that the goal was the most difficult chance of the night. Gotze had much to do when the ball came to him. The first touch was brilliant and the finish was out of this world.
Gotze’s goal by the way was the 171st of this World Cup, which tied with France 1998 for the record.
So, overall Germany deserved it. The country is phenomenal at getting the job done – its team ethos, its great players.
It is absolutely worthy of winning the World Cup. It was the best team throughout and the players grew a lot. They were always very solid, got through the results and improved as the tournament went on.
Argentina had plenty of chances to win it but unfortunately for it, its chances fell to the wrong players. Their players also did not force one save from Neuer in 120 minutes.
The win was massively celebrated in Brazil. The last thing the Brazilians wanted was a victory by their old enemy Argentina, and on their territory.
Messi won the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament, though not everyone will agree with that. It was without question his best performance at three World Cups but he couldn’t seize the chance that would have made him immortal. Messi will be 31 the time the next World Cup comes around. You just wonder whether this was the moment for him.
Neuer collected his Golden Glove award. He was clearly the best goalkeeper at the tournament and deserved that. There was no controversy there.
Although James Rodriguez of Chile played only five games he won the Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals.
The match was quite equal. Maybe the best chances went to Argentina, but it is still deserved by Germany.
Germany had reached the semi-finals of the previous two World Cups. A lot of people thought back in 2010 that Germany would be ready to win in 2014 and it has done so with style.