Germany 1-0 Argentina (AET)
After contesting both the 1986 and 1990 World Cup final, familiar foes Germany and Argentina met again in their third World Cup final.
La Albiceleste won the first encounter during Diego Maradona’s famous Mexico ’86 tournament, 3-2. Four years later Die Mannschaft levelled the scores as they beat Maradona et al 1-0 in Italia ’90s bad-tempered final.
The spotlight was on Lionel Messi before the kick-off. It seemed despite the Germans having their admirers, bitter Brazilians aside, the world was waiting to see Barcelona’s No. 10 lift the World Cup trophy.
Argentina did have a few chances in the first-half. Gonzalo Higuain screwed his first clear chance wide and then the Napoli frontman had a goal ruled out for offside.
Messi though was effectively marshalled by the Germans, reducing him to a frustrating pedestrian pace whenever his team were without possession.
As the match moved into extra-time and it was the youngest player on the pitch, Mario Gotze, who became the first substitute to score the winning goal in a World Cup final.
The German win kept up Europe’s recent World Cup supremacy following Italy’s triumph in 2006 and Spain’s four years previously.
At the Maracana the German Football Federation’s mission statement came to fruition as six of the starting XI had also represented the Germany Under 21’s during the 2009 European Championships.
This initiative followed Germany’s footballing decline in the late 1990s and the subsequent overhaul resulted in heavy investment on elite footballing academies nationwide.
Toni Kroos capped a fine tournament by becoming the first player born in East Germany to win the World Cup. Shortly after he completed a transfer to Real Madrid from Bayern Munich.
The 24-year-old has now added the World Cup, to the Champions League, the World Club Cup and the Bundesliga double in his honours list.
For Argentina, they can hold their heads high after a relatively successful tournament. Messi may not have deserved the Golden Ball but his four goals plus assists were crucial to Argentina’s run to the final.
However, given their recent record against the Germans, the South Americans will no doubt hope to avoid them in future tournaments.
Soon after bringing the World Cup home, 30-year-old Philip Lahm retired from national football, ending his international career on a high.
Other than Germany’s success there should be a couple of tips of the hat to the following players for their exploits at the World Cup:
So it’s farewell to Brazil and four years and counting to the Russian World Cup. It certainly wont possess the same footballing romanticism but given the strength and relatively young age of the German squad, poses an intriguing question as to whether Die Mannschaft could they become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to successful defend the World Cup.