Mario Goetze conquers World for Germany with moment of magic
Germany 1 Argentina 0 (after extra-time)
Super Mario Goetze, Mario De Janeiro, the supersub, won Germany the World Cup in extra time at the Maracana.
Argentina had fought hard, but in Jerome Boateng and particularly the bloodied, bruised Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany had the best players on the pitch. And they had Goetze.
Goetze's goal was a worthy winner: A good take of Andre Schurrle's cross on the chest and then unstoppable shot. What a finish. What a day.
The Argentinians had taken over Copacabana, queuing from dawn to get into the fan fest, while the lucky ones in possession of the golden tickets marched to the Maracana, singing their “Brazil, tell me how it feels,” song to the tune of ‘Bad Moon Rising’, climaxing with “Messi will no doubt, will bring the Cup home.”
The many Brazilians present responded with: "A thousand goals, only Pele scored 1,000 goals".
Argentina had looked a team who had grown during the tournament, at warriors such as Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Mascherano, at their captain Messi, although they sighed when Gonzalo Higuain missed a glorious chance in the first half.
They had been lifted by the calf injury that Sami Khedira sustained in the warm-up, ruling out the man deputed to shadow Messi most closely.
Borussia Moenchengladbach's Christoph Kramer, who had been casually spinning the ball basketball-style for a few minutes in the tunnel beforehand, was suddenly scrambled into action and handed the Lionel-taming duties – on his second international start. He did not last too long, sustaining a head injury and being replaced by Schurrle.
Argentina supporters, noting with approval that David Beckham's sons were all sporting blue-and-white-striped tops, had believed in their team's destiny, but they had also known the scale of the task.
This was Germany, the team of the tournament, blessed with the class of Manuel Neuer in goal and Philipp Lahm and Mats Hummels in defence, such formidable fortifications.
They had the central power of Bastian Schweinsteiger with Toni Kroos pushing on. Germany had the intelligent, non-stop running of Thomas Mueller on the right and the record-breaking Miroslav Klose up top. It had all been teed up: a final of contrasts, Europe against South America, the prolific against the parsimonious, Germany having scored 17 to Argentina's three conceded.
It was a feast for the rich and powerful, for Carles Puyol, who carried the trophy out with all the tender care of a father cradling a new-born. The fight to succeed Puyol's Spain as world champions had started with Germany enjoying plenty of possession, 65pc before the interval, but Argentina always a threat on the counter.
Messi glided down the right, cutting into space vacated by Ezequiel Lavezzi, and running at Hummels, who had been lured wide. Messi flicked at the accelerator, taking him away from Hummels, reaching the byline and cutting the ball back. Schweinsteiger, a defensive as well as creative force this tournament, had dropped back and positioned himself well to clear.
Argentina were absorbing German pressure, seeing off a run from Mesut Ozil here, a break from Muller there, and racing upfield. Lucas Biglia had a shot blocked by Benedikt Howedes. Ozil chased back with Enzo Perez. Argentina were defending resolutely. Martin Demichelis ran across to close down Klose.
Kramer was almost knocked out by Ezequiel Garay. Marcos Rojo did not hold back when flying in for the ball, clearing out Mueller. It set the tone for their duel, part physical, part verbal. Argentina attacked again, wasting a gift of a chance after 20 minutes. Kroos decided to head the ball back to Neuer, not checking for blue shirts.
Higuain took a touch, heading into inviting space with Neuer not in one of his sweeper moods. Higuain glanced right, perhaps checking whether Messi was around. The Napoli centre-forward never looked convincing as he addressed the ball. He caught it with his shin, and dragged it wide. Awful.
Sabella's side were undeniably rattling Low's. Lavezzi burst through the middle and had his left heel clipped by Schweinsteiger, who was cautioned.
Then Messi, suddenly bringing vision and elegance to the occasion, hooked the ball right to Lavezzi. With his first touch, Lavezzi guided the ball into space and with his second, whipped in a cross turned in powerfully by Higuain. He tore away in celebration, away from the flag rising correctly to signal offside. Sabella knew immediately, wagging a finger to still his bench's celebration.
Kramer had never recovered from his collision with Garay and departed, looking shell-shocked, his eyes hollow. Cue an attacking move by Loew. Germany reorganised: Kroos dropped back alongside Schweinsteiger, Ozil moved across into the hole with Schurrle left.
Zabaleta promptly charged past Schurrle, his speed bringing a desperate, dangerous challenge from Howedes, whose studs burrowed into the Manchester City right-back. Howedes held his hands up immediately, acknowledging the offence, and accepting the booking.
The Germans dominated possession but still could not find a way through Sabella's well-organised defence. Even when Mueller found some space, Schurrle's shot was athletically saved by Romero.
The first period was not a classic but it was compelling to watch, shifting from end to end, Argentina almost doing more with less. Messi showed again, darting away from Hummels, heading the ball on, beating the centre-half for pace, refusing to tumble when an outstretched arm came across him.
But the little Argentinian was too focused on cutting the ball back. As Lavezzi stretched to turn it in, Jerome Boateng recovered to clear the danger. Such moments brought explosions of sound from supporters. It was so intense.
Mueller and Rojo squared up. Germany came so close to scoring, Howedes escaping from Mascherano and heading Kroos' corner against a post. Sabella made his first move at the break, sending on Sergio Aguero for Lavezzi.
Some space opened up for Messi and he took aim as thousands of his compatriots behind Neuer's goal stood hopefully. But Messi was almost too casual and rolled his shot wide.
After 56 minutes, Argentina were outraged by Neuer's charge from his line, leaping to punch the ball above Higuain but the momentum sending his knee into the striker's head. This was hardly a Harald Schumacher incident, but it still endangered a forward. Higuain was even more stunned when a free-kick was awarded against him.
Argentina were disciplined tactically, keeping their shape, denying Germany opportunities, but occasionally reverting to fouls to halt opposition moves.
Mascherano brought down Klose and Aguero upended Schweinsteiger. Both were booked. The goal continued to elude the sides.
Schurrle almost broke through. Messi cut in from the right, emerging from a sea of white shirts, but curled his shot past Neuer's right-hand upright. Messi then dribbled past Hummels and Schweinsteiger, but Rodrigo Palacio, who had just replaced Higuain, failed to respond.
Germany then squandered a marvellous chance, Kroos shooting wide from Ozil's clever cut-back. Argentina's fans sang their anti-Pele song again, eliciting angry whistles from the Brazilians.
As the clock ticked towards the 90 minutes, the coaches tried to freshen their sides. Fernando Gago replaced Perez while Goetze came on for Klose, the greatest goal-scorer in World Cup finals history leaving the field to a standing ovation.
Extra-time was laboured until Goetze pounced. Romero saved from Schurrle. Boateng continued to impress, dispossessing Aguero. Palacio missed a wonderful chance, lifting the ball over Neuer but wide.
The final became briefly pockmarked. Mascherano caught Schweinsteiger's left instep. Then, Lucas Biglio and Mascherano clattered Schweinsteiger, whose cheek was opened up by Aguero.
But Germany had the last laugh. Schurrle stormed down the left, Goetze controlled the cross on his chest and then hooked his shot past the despairing Romero. (© Daily Telegraph, London)