Germany became the first European team to win the World Cup on South American soil after substitute Mario Gotze scored an extra time winner against Argentina at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
Joachim Low’s German side entered the game as favorites following their 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semi-finals, but Argentina performed valiantly to create an absorbing World Cup final.
Lionel Messi’s moment slipped away as he failed to emulate Argentinian legend Diego Maradona by captaining his country to World Cup glory.
Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín and Rodrigo Palacio were all guilty of missing golden opportunities during the game but it was a 113th minute winner from Gotze that gave Germany their first World Cup trophy in 24 years – and their first as a unified nation. West Germany last won the tournament in 1990 – coincidentally beating Argentina – but the wait for their fourth World Cup crown is now over.
Sami Khedira had been one of the most outstanding players in the tournament but was injured during the warm-up and replaced by Christoph Kramer, making his first ever international start.
Early into the match, Toni Kroos almost gifted Argentina the opening goal as his header back towards his own goal fell to Higuaín. With just Manuel Neuer – who was outstanding throughout the whole match – to beat, Higuaín dragged his shot wide. The former Real Madrid man also had a goal ruled out for offside after a brilliant cross from Ezequiel Lavezzi.
But it was the way that the Germany defensive unit kept Messi at bay that was most impressive. They kept their shape and their discipline throughout the game, making it harder for Messi to break through and turn the game on its head.
Courageous displays from midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defensive pairing Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels epitomized this Germany side – one that, on the balance of play during the tournament, deserved to win.
In Argentina’s team, Javier Mascherano gave his all. He was one of the main reasons that Argentina made it as far as they did, and without him their organisation may not have been as good as it was, and the game may have been won earlier.
Germany were as efficient as ever and had the lion’s share of the action, and perhaps their success at this tournament is an ominous sign that they will dominate world football in the way that Spain did between 2008 and 2012. The squad is a young one, with many players in their mid-20s. 24-year-old Andre Schürrle created the winning goal which was dispatched by 22-year-old Bayern Munich man Mario Gotze.
Low announced before the game that Germany would be aiming to dominate world football from here on out, and you have to say that they have every chance with the core of this squad set to still be at the top of their game for years to come.
One of their older players, Miroslav Klose, ended his international career on the highest possible note – winning his first World Cup and becoming the all time tournament top scorer.
But the final will be seen as a missed opportunity by Argentina. They know it was a chance to win their third World Cup trophy in the back yard of their fiercest rivals.
The tournament itself was a fantastic spectacle, with 171 goals – some of them absolutely brilliant – and some simply amazing results. The challenge is now passed on to Russia as they host the next tournament in four years time, and of course the pressure is on Germany to retain their trophy and equal Brazil’s record of five tournament wins.
But for now, Germany can revel in winning their fourth, a success that these players will remember forever, and one that they fully deserved.
Mario Gotze can prepare himself to be immortalized by the adoring German public. Thanks to his fantastic finish, Germany are the 2014 World Champions.