Germany have been crowned champions of the world after one of the greatest World Cup in history which had everything from entertainment and excitement to controversies and surprises. Mario Gotze sealed the win with a sublime strike in extra-time to give the Germans the slender victory, and leave brave Argentina heart-broken.
Joachim Low’s side got into the final on the back of one of the most historic semi-final victories of all time and followed it up with a less extraordinary scoreline but a similarly solid performance.
The victory was the first time the Germans have ever won the World Cup as Germany, their three previous wins being the West Germans. The last of these wins coming just months before the German unification and the felling of the Berlin Wall.
Argentina put up a very strong resistance but ultimately found themselves relying a little too much on Lionel Messi for their creative focus. Defensively the South Americans have been first-rate throughout the competition and only met their match in the final.
Last minute forced change
Joachim Low’s starting XI was compelled to see a late amendment when Sami Khedira was injured in the warm up. Much like Wesley Sneijder yesterday against the hosts, Khedira was almost ready to kick-off when the injury struck. The Real Madrid midfielder was replaced by Christoph Kramer, who also succumbed to injury in the game with a worrying looking concussion, which saw him play on at first but he was soon falling to the deck involuntarily.
Andre Schurrle replaced him, giving the Germans more of an attacking presence but leaving them slightly short of defensive midfield experience. Their back-line stepped up to the challenge though, doing a superb job of keeping Higuain, Aguero and even Messi as quite as possible.
Higuain’s sitter and mistimed run
Germany saw the lion’s share of the possession in the first half, mostly far up the field, as is the nature of this very attacking German midfield, but the biggest chances of the first half fell to the Argentinians, primarily through Napoli hitman, Gonzalo Higuain.
The first opportunity came from a very rare mistake by Toni Kroos, who headed backwards too heavily to be directed at his defense but much too weakly to be destined for Neuer. It was an absolute gift and you would always back the prolific former Real Madrid striker to at least hit the target but he uncharacteristically fired wide.
Higuain did find the back of the net near the half hour mark, when he side-footed past Neuer, connecting well with Lavezzi’s cross behind the defense. The move was begun, naturally, by Lionel Messi, who outdid Boateng and fed a great ball out wide. The move was a great one but Higuain should know how to time his run much better than that and that you can’t waste chances against Die Mannschaft.
Messi also had a decent chance but found himself thoroughly crowded out in the German box. The Barcelona playmaker had even got past Neuer but he was totally outnumbered by white shirts.
Argentina’s solid defense held up very strongly in the face of German pressure, looking once again very composed and confident. Romero was also forced to make a few good saves but, with the form he has been in at the World Cup, there was nothing he couldn’t handle in the first half.
Germany’s two biggest chances were both accompanied by the offside flag, by far the biggest one being when Howedes headed a corner off the post. The Schalke center-back was left wide open in Argentina’s one-and-only Brazil impression, and his header very nearly broke the deadlock
Intense return to the field
The first five minutes of the second half saw the intensity step up another notch and the game become very end-to-end. Messi beat the German offside trap but placed his shot just wide of the far post, and within minutes at the other end Mascherano had to be called into action, akin to his block on Robben in the semi-final.
The game settled a little after a while and saw more yellow cards than goalscoring opportunities until Messi popped up on the 74th minute with another shot just wide. He picked the ball up on the right hand side of the box and headed inside, avoiding multiple challenges, but the shot never looked like hitting the target.
Neuer clattered into Higuain on the edge of the box in one of few events of the last 25 minutes of regulation time, with both teams beginning to show signs of the long seasons behind them as the game wore on. Fatigue caused the tempo to decrease and caution to increase, and the game looked inevitable to go to extra-time.
Thirty extra minutes
Chelsea’s Schurrle struck well in the opening minutes of extra-time, receiving a great lay-up from substitute Gotze and hitting it fiercely, but Romero parried it away. Argentina had a good chance soon after with Aguero’s fresh legs thrashing the German defense for pace, but Messi couldn’t match the run and failed to get on the end of the ball across the box by the Man City striker.
Palacio, on for Higuain, was given a golden chance in the 96th minute only to blow it when he didn’t control well enough with his chest, allowing Neuer to close him down and he put it wide under the pressure.
Gotze scores a peach to give the Germans the title
The tiredness of the players continued to heighten, causing multiple collisions, further taking the velocity of the game down, but then Schurrle broke forward on the left wing with 112 minutes on the clock and everything changed.
The 23-year-old played a fantastic cross, inch perfect to the run of Mario Gotze, who had found some space in the box. The Bayern Munich starlet took the ball on his chest exceptionally and struck it on the volley in even greater style. It was a remarkable goal, exhibiting a quality that evidently was required to finally find a way past Romero.
The Albiceleste were on the losing end of a scoreline for the very first time in the tournament, an impressive achievement, but this was the time they least wanted to be in such a position. Seven minutes were left on the clock and very little was left in the legs. The last real hope rested on that man again, Lionel Messi, with a long range free-kick but the pressure of the situation was too much and he failed to test Neuer.
The awards ceremony that immediately followed the game saw the two afore-mentioned players presented with the Golden Ball and the Golden Glove, respectively.
Germany conducted themselves with dignity, showing the utmost respect to the Argentinians, and proudly following them up those hallowed steps to lift the World Cup trophy and celebrate being crowned champions of the world.
An excellent achievement from an excellent group of players, guided well by Low and also very young for the most part; so don’t be surprised if they continue to rule on the big stages for years to come.