Germany are the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ champions, lifting the Trophy for the fourth time in their history after overcoming Argentina 1-0 courtesy of an extra-time goal by Mario Gotze at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
The substitute settled a tie that was in the balance from the first minute until the last with a finish of startling composure given the circumstances, pressure and surroundings. His strike proved the difference, with Argentina unable to respond in what little time remained, adding another star to the Europeans’ crest following their triumphs in 1954, 1974 and 1990.
A naturally frenetic beginning to the encounter brought an early sight of goal for Gonzalo Higuain. The genesis of the chance was actually a Germany free-kick, with rapid pressure from Ezequiel Lavezzi on the loose ball ultimately forcing an opportunity for his team-mate, who sought the far left corner with a low drive from an acute angle but dragged the effort wide.
Initial Nationalmannschaft dominance in possession petered out before the quarter-hour and, in succession, Lionel Messi, Pablo Zabaleta and Philipp Lahm were left bemoaning a lack of reachable targets inside the danger zone as they carefully picked out crosses from wide.
Neither participant in the finest opening of the first 20 minutes had anybody to blame but himself. Toni Kroos miscalculated a header back to his goalkeeper, merely finding Higuain unmarked and uncatchable. The Argentina forward seemed a certain scorer as he bounded towards Manuel Neuer but contrived to instead hook a right-foot shot off target to the left.
With 30 minutes on the clock, the Albiceleste No9 did put the ball into the net, but luck continued to desert the South Americans as the officials rightly adjudged him offside. After collecting a pass in freedom on the right flank, Lavezzi had swept a vicious centre along the corridor of the Germany penalty box to Higuain, who expertly guided home first time with a side-foot. But the flag was correctly raised and it remained goalless.
A moment later, Andre Schurrle was introduced by Joachim Low in place of the injured Christoph Kramer, who himself had been named in the starting XI at the last moment following an issue in the warm-up for Sami Khedira. The Chelsea attacker was involved almost immediately, controlling a Thomas Muller delivery and quickly blasting at goal only for Sergio Romero to pull off a save.
Though Germany largely contained Messi in the first half, the Barcelona superstar caused alarm before the break when he galloped along the right touchline and to the near post before being crowded out by a combination of defence and goalkeeper. At the other end, composed hold-up play by Miroslav Klose teed up Kroos for a shot that was simple for Romero.
There was still time in an absorbing period for defender Benedikt Howedes to thunder a header from Kroos’ precise corner against Argentina’s right post, with Muller ruled offside as he attempted to acrobatically send in a rebound from close range.
When the two sides returned after the break, Alejandro Sabella had decided on a change, with Sergio Aguero replacing Lavezzi in an advanced position. They started the brighter too and, as previously with Higuain, Messi dispatched a shot off his strongest foot wide of the far post from a narrow angle, having been found by a cute Lucas Biglia pass.
Trademark movement from the World Cup’s all-time top scorer, Klose, married with a lofted Lahm cross but the striker’s header was little trouble to Romero. With each passing minute, the match became increasingly stretched, with neither team yielding in their attacking ambitions.
Enzo Perez was somewhat fortunate to pick out talisman Messi in the 75th minute, prompting the 27-year-old to arc around a series of German challenges at the outer edge of the area. The strike was always coming but when the No10 did unleash a curler and the massed ranks of Argentinians in attendance drew breath, it skewed harmlessly off target.
Back at the other end, Mesut Ozil was accurate in passing across the field to the onrushing Kroos, who realised the need to hit the ball instantly as opponents closed in. However, Romero was able to watch his cool side-foot drift wide. The Albiceleste goalkeeper was then equally comfortable in keeping out a Gotze daisy-cutter, heralding extra time in Rio.
The pace from the outset of the additional period was relentless; Schurrle smacked straight at the keeper, Aguero looked for a colleague from the left at the conclusion of a counter-attack and saw none, while substitute Rodrigo Palacio looped the ball over Neuer but lost control after taking down a fine Marcos Rojo inswinger in space.
Then, with seven minutes of the 120 remaining, the decisive moment arrived. Schurrle bulldozed past three Argentina defenders on the left flank, drawing Sabella’s charges out of shape and clipping over them to Gotze. The 22-year-old’s technique was exquisite, cushioning the ball on his chest and volleying at an awkward height, finding the far corner of the net to write his name into German and World Cup football folklore.