World Cup final 2014: Germany beats Argentina

Germany 1 Argentina 0

Joel Ward celebrates Germany's win at the German Club at Kembla Grange. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Joel Ward celebrates Germany's win at the German Club at Kembla Grange. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Germany are the new world champions, Joachim Low's team proving itself resilient and good enough to take the best opportunity that fell its way in a pulsating, thrilling World Cup final against an Argentinian side that at various points of a wonderful game looked as though it, not its European rival, could take the crown.

This was a game of oscillating fortures played at a frantic pace where fortunes ebbed and flowed one way or another. There was little between the two teams for 113 minutes until German substitute Mario Gotze struck a goal of the highest class, a volley which was worthy of a World Cup winning goal.

Another German substitute, Andre Schurrle, summoned the energy to break wide on the left with just seven minutes left in extra time before delivering a cross to the edge of the six yard box. Gotze got free between two defenders, controlled the ball on his chest and then volleyed home, giving Sergio Romero no chance. 

It was a superb strike to end a superb match, and although it was cruel on the South Americans few will argue that over the balance of the tournament Germany were the best team.

Joel and Elise Ward celebrate Germany's win at the German Club at Kembla Grange. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Joel and Elise Ward celebrate Germany's win at the German Club at Kembla Grange. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Thus the Germans now have four World Cups to their name, equal with Italy, and only one less than the host nation Brazil, whom they humbled 7-1 in that astonishing semi final five days earlier. They won this title by the same scoreline 1-0  that they had defeated Argentina the last time these two nations met in a final, in Rome in 1990.

They have also become the first European nation to win the World Cup in South America.

The diminutive figure of Lionel Messi was a signifcant presence through much of this match  but the Barcelona star, could not quite make the difference he had in earlier games. 

His rueful smile as he drove a late free kick over the bar summed up his feelings in a game in which he had been good, but not outstanding in the way he needed to be if the Albicelestes were to win this title.

Still it was hard not to have sympathy for an Argentina side that had carved out numerous chances and dominated periods of the game without being able to convert any.

Pamela Feiertag at the German Club in Kembla Grange. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Pamela Feiertag at the German Club in Kembla Grange. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

This was a game that began in dramatic circumstances when key German midfielder Sami Khedira was forced to withdraw from the starting eleven having injured himself in the pre match warm up, his place going to youngster Christoph Kramer, who was himself later to leave the field with concussion after an elbow to the head from Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay.

It ended in tense and equally compelling circumstances with Gotze's goal and Argentina's last gasp efforts to dredge up an equaliser and force the match to a penalty shoot out.

Gonzalo Higuain was the villain of the piece for the Albiceleste in a first half in which Germany began the brighter but the South Americans gradually exerted themselves and created a number of opportunities.

The best of those fell to the Napoli frontman Higuain, who surely could not have believed how much time and space he found himself in after Toni Kroos's errant back header left him in the clear with only German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to beat.

A striker of Higuain's class and experience would be expected to finish an opportunity like that in normal circumstances. But a World Cup final is the least normal of circumstances, and Higuain, like many before him, didn't cope with the pressure, scuffing his shot wide of Manuel Neuer's right hand post.

The frontman, who has been an ever present throughout Artentina's run to the final,  thought he had given his country the lead shortly afterwards after some great lead up work by Messi, who controlled the ball beautifully in midfield after Germany failed to clear properly from an Argentine attack and fed Ezequiel Lavezzi out on the right. 

The winger floated a lovely cross which Higuain met first time and side footed home. Alas for him and the full throated mass of Argentine supporters who were trying to turn the Maracana into an outpost of Buenos Aires, the assistant referee raised his flag for offside. Replays showed that Higuain and his team mate Marcos Rojo had strayed into forbidden territory.

Early in the game Higuain had almost given his team the lead from another sharp break, this time when he dragged a shot across goal, just wide of Neuer's post.

Not that it was all one way traffic in a classic game in which both sides punched and pushed each other to find an opening. Challenges were hard  and occasionally illegal, with at least one serious ramification - but the big name players were standing up.

There is no bigger name in the game than  Messi, and he proved a constant threat  as he picked up the ball and ran at defenders, especially down the right flank where Germany's converted centre half, Benedikt Hoewedes, has looked vulnerable during this tournament.

Messi's extraordinary ball control, allied to his ability to shift gears and quicken in an instant makes him almost unplayable at times and on numerous occasions here he ran at the German rearguard and caused consternation _ none more so than when he outpaced Mats Hummels and fired in a shot that just went wide.

Faced with opponents who would not buckle like Brazil, Germany had to gather itself and dig in for what promised to be a long haul. 

The German defence, which had rarely been tested by quarter final opponents France or Brazil in that bizzare semi final looked like breaking on several occasions, struggling to cope not just with the tricks Messi but the direct speedy running of Ezequiel Lavezzi, who attacked from the flanks or through the middle.

Germany, however, had its chances too. Thomas Muller linked well on the right with Mesut Ozil as they tried to pull the well organised Argentine defence out of shape with little immediate success.

Germany was dealt a major blow when youngster  Kramer, who had replaced Sami Khedira minutes before the start, was himself forced to leave the field after half an hour. 

The 23-year-old had been hit hard in the head by an elbow by Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay and had never looked as if he was conscious of his whereabouts afterwards before being replaced after half an hour because of what appeared to be concussion.

His replacement, Andre Schurrle, then tested Sergio Romero in the Argentine goal with a well struck shot after Muller got clear onthe left. The danger then appeared at the other end when Messi's sprint and driving run into the box got him round the back of the German defence to beat Neuer, although Jerome Boateng scrambled the ball clear. 

Romero saved from Kroos, Muller sent a curling shot wide and then Hedwiges crashed a header off the woodwork in the shadows of half time as this game really caught fire.

Messi had a wonderful opportunity to put Argentina ahead shortly after the restart when he was played clear in the penalty area, but once again he pulled his shot wide of Neuer's left post.

Neuer, renowned for his expertese as a ''sweeper keeper'' then had to be out off his line smartly to punch clear a long ball as Higuain chased the pass down, the German collecting the striker in the head with his knee as he jumped. 

While Higuain protested, the goalkeeper was entitled to go for the ball and he did reach it before the Argentinian. Whether he should have done so leading with his knee is another issue, and his challenge evoked comparisons with the far worse one by another German goalkeeper, Toni Schumacher, in the 1982 World Cup, when he knocked out Fremchman  Patrick Battiston.

As the clock ticked by the issue of fatigue began to raise itself. Germany's stroll in the park on Tuesday against Brazil would hardly have taken anything out of them, while Argentina, who played a day later against The Netherlands in the other semi final, had to go through 120 minutes and a penalty shoot out, a game which its coach, Alejandro Sabella, described as a ''war''.

The ever combative Javier Mascherano, the heartbeat of this Argentine side, found himself in the book for a late challenge on Klose, and moments later Sergio Aguero met the same fate for a for a late challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger as the cautions began to mount.

 Messi danced around the edge of the penalty area  before getting off another shot that curled just wide. This was Argentina's achilles heel: they were creating openings, but rarely could they trouble Neuer with a shot on target.

Both coaches rang the changes, and German striker Mirolav Klose received a warm ovation when he was replaced with just minutes left by Mario Goetze. Klose became the all time World Cup leading scorer when he struck against Brazil, and at 36 a World Cup final appearance was a fitting end to a marvellous career.

The pace did not let up at the start of extra time as Schurrle sent in a shot which was easily dealt with by Romero while at the other end Neuer tidied up Aguero's cross after a swift Argentine break.

Substitute Rodrigo Palacios came agonisingly close with a lob which  beat Neuer but went wide of the post as Argentina continued to threaten from quick counter attacks.

It looked as though it was heading for penalties before Gotze's wonderful finish.

Klose caps a brilliant international career with a World Cup winners medal, while Messi is left to reflect on the fact that he could not quite inspire his country to a World Cup win in the manner of his predecessor, Diego Maradona, against Germany in 1986.

SMH

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