Rio de Janeiro, Jul 14 (PTI): Germany wrote a new chapter in the history of international football as they became the first European team to lift the World Cup in South America, clinching a hard-fought 1-0 win over Argentina in the final, their triumph coming on the back of steely resolve and blood on the pitch here.
Substitute Mario Goetze scored the all-important goal in the 113th minute, combining with another sub Andre Schurrle, who provided him the assist, leaving thousands of Argentine fans at the iconic Maracana Stadium heartbroken and the Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, ecstatic.
The golden generation of German footballers’ eagerness to win the silverware was best defined by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was bleeding from a cut on his face following a rough challenge, after the game went into extra time.
The winning goal came when Schurrle made inroads down the left hand side and played a cross towards the near post for Goetze, who took it on his chest before placing it into the back of the net with his left foot.
The result meant Lionel Messi’s dream to join the pantheon of greats such as Diego Maradona and Pele ended in heartbreak. The 27-year-old Argentina captain had the chance to win the cup for his country at the start of second half, but this was not to be his day.
It was not the free-flowing football Germans dished out in the beginning of the tournament but, on the biggest stage of all, they appeared determined to not let go of this golden chance to script history.
This was Germany’s fourth World Cup triumph, and their first since reunification. Last time too, their title win had come against Argentina in 1990 in Italy.
After a rather subdued outing in the first half, Germany gradually applied pressure on the opponents in the second half, before upping the ante in the extra time.
The ploy worked for the Europeans as Argentina appeared to have lost the plot following a promising start, with some of them even resorting to physical game.
Joachim Loew’s side made its intentions clear at the start of extra time, with Schurrle and Mesut Ozil both getting a sniff of the goal.
The only consolation for Messi was winning the Golden Ball for being the best player of the tournament. The Golden Boot went to Colombian striker James Rodriguez for scoring six goals while Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer bagged the Golden Glove.
It was even stevens in the first half as both Argentina and Germany had their moments with the balance slightly tilted in favour of the South Americans.
That’s perhaps because Alejandro Sabella’s outfit had more shots at goal as compared to their famed opponents from Europe.
They made inroads into the German half intermittently and kept the back four, led by skipper Phillip Lahm, busy with their typical latin American enterprise.
The only thing that Argentina lacked on the big day was finishing.
Leaving aside Gonzalo Higuain’s successful tap-in that was ruled off-side, the Albiceleste could have gone ahead at least on two occasions if not more.
In the 22nd minute, what appeared to be a routine clearance was back headed on the path of Higuain by Tony Kross, but the Napoli frontman messed up as he failed to put Argentina in lead with only goalkeeper Mauel Neuer at his mercy.
Ezequiel Lavezzi was also blocked on the goal line from turning in a Messi cross. Few half attempts were taken care of by Neuer.
La Albiceleste showed enough speed and movement to trouble the German back four. Higuain, Messi and Lavezzi can all beat their markers for pace and they gave enough evidence of that, alas without success.
Meanwhile, in the first half added time, the Argentines had their hearts pounding when Benedikt Hoewedes’s header at the death thudded against the vertical.
Right after the break, Messi had a chance to join legends such as Maradona and Pele. Germany left space on the edge of the area for him to exploit and that he does, squeezing his way into the box before launching one on the wrong side of the far post.
A frustrated Sabella finally replaced Higuain in the 78th minute with Rodrigo Palacio on a night that could have been his on more than one occasion.
And then, a few minutes after Fernando Gago’s arrival, 36-year-old Miroslav Klose’s World Cup came to an end after the finals’ all-time highest scorer was substituted with Goetze, which eventually proved to be a masterstroke.