An extra time Mario Gotze goal handed Germany a 1-0 victory over Argentina in Sunday’s World Cup final at the Maracana. In a hard-fought contest that lacked creativity and did not live up to its billing, it was the Europeans who grabbed the only goal after 113 minutes in a stadium almost filled to capacity with over 70 000 spectators.
Despite being goalless, the first half was not dull as both teams tried to play attacking football. The strength of the Argentinians in counter attacks was quickly evident as Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain got onto the end of a quick counter attack only to see his effort slide unencumbered across the face of Manuel Neuer’s goal with the host completely out of action. On 21 minutes Higuain was again called into action and could have opened the scoring after a poor back header from Toni Kroos played the striker on side and he managed a free shot from the edge of the box, but he saw his effort go begging. Lionel Messi was very much up for the task and after showing his pace in outrunning Hummels earlier in the match, ace then showed off his eye for a pass by making a cross-field pass to Lavezzi who in turn sent a searching ball to Higuain to slide past Neuer but the effort was chalked off for offside.
After this escape, Germany began to have the lion’s share of the ball, but they were unable to turn possession into real chances. Indeed, it was Argentina who had the next clear-cut opportunity. Messi was the man pulling the strings on this occasion, cruising down the right before cutting in from the touchline and flicking the ball past Neuer but Jerome Boateng made a clearance from the line and with the multitude of supporters on their feet, ready to celebrate. Kroos’ corner from the right was met by Benedikt Howedes, the full-back throwing his body at the ball and propelling a header which hit the upright with so much force, it stunned the Argentinian goalie.
Just into the second half, Messi was played into the penalty area with a clear goal opportunity but the left footer he unleashed ballooned wide of the right upright post. It was at this point that the coaching department introduced Sergio Arguero to try and engineer a breakthrough. Unfortunately, before the change could have an impact, the Germans came back into the game and the stalemate continued. Instead of bringing in style, flair and good football into the game, the rest of the second stanza brought scrappy play that was probably from playing for goal while at the same time taking care not to let any goals in. With a few minutes of regulation play remaining, the Germans created two amazing opportunities that they were unfortunately unable to put away. With 20 minutes remaining Muller showed some neat footwork to dance into space in the penalty area, but Schurrle was unable to control as it spilled at his feet and the chance was gone. Mesut Ozil then did well to set up Kroos on the edge of the box, but the Bayern Munich man’s side-footed effort was wide of the target.
In the extra time, German’s Schurrle forced Romero to make a great save almost straight from the first whilstle of extra time. A few minutes later, Argentina substitute Rodrigo Palacio had a glorious chance to get on the scoresheet as he got past a struggling Hummels before failing in his attempt to chip Neuer. Considering the struggle to break the deadlock, it was fitting that it was a goal of the highest quality that proved the winner. The busybody, Schurrie picked up a pass on the left hand side of the field and sent in a curling cross into the action. Young Gotze, who had come on as a late replacement for Klose, showed brilliant technique when he controlled the cross on his chest before blasting the ball past Romero.
After much speculation, it turned out that it was the Germans who were left to celebrate their fourth World Cup title as the Argentinians fell at the last hurdle, again at the expense of the Germans.