Germany won the World Cup for the first time as a unified nation with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Argentina. Since an abysmal showing at Euro 2004 (when they failed to win a match), they have reached at least the semi-final stage in all of the last five international tournaments, culminating in yesterday’s success. In the process they secured a first World Cup triumph since 1990 and became the first team from Europe to win football’s biggest prize in South America.
After their astonishing dismantling of Brazil on Tuesday, Germany understandably went into Sunday’s showpiece as favourites. However, Argentina, despite not playing as much free-flowing attacking football, had the best defence in the competition going into the final showdown and had not conceded in the knockout phase. It was expected that Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Agüero and Ezequiel Lavezzi would light up the tournament, but in truth only the Barcelona man delivered anything of note, and their poor form was in evidence once again, as they failed to register a shot on target. The fact that Argentina ultimately failed to deliver will have been a relief to Brazilian fans who, despite the humbling they received at Germany’s hands, would have found the prospect of their arch-rivals securing the third world title at their own national stadium utterly unpalatable.
Germany suffered an early setback in the warm-up when influential midfield Sami Khedira pulled up and was replaced by Christopher Kramer, who in turn had to be replaced after a nasty blow to the head. Argentina enjoyed the better of the chances in the early stages, with the normally dependable Toni Kroos steering a header back towards his own goal and into the path of Higuain. The Napoli striker was clean through, but with just Manuel Neuer to beat (I say ‘just’, he is an unbelievable keeper), he scuffed his shot horribly wide. Higuain looked to have made amends minutes later when he scampered onto Lavezzi’s centre and planted the ball beyond Neuer, only to be flagged offside. At the other end, Argentinian shot-stopper Sergio Romero did well beat away Andre Schürrle’s fierce drive and Germany almost took the lead on half-time when Benedikt Höwedes met Kroos’ corner with a thumping header that crashed off the post.
- Messi failed to make an impact in the final
La Albiceste’s main attacking threat throughout the competition has been Messi and it has often been said (rightly or wrongly) that he needs to win a World Cup in order to be considered for the label of ‘the greatest player ever’. While he was anonymous for long periods of the final, he did display flashes of brilliance, occasionally going on a mazy dribble or darting past some German tackles. His chance to make history arrived midway through the second half when he scurried through on goal, but snatched at his shot, with the ball rolling wide of Neuer’s left-hand post. The Germans were still a threat though and continued to push for a winner in normal time, with Kroos almost capitalising. However, he stroked Özil’s pull-back just off target.
With the game deep into extra time, and the feeling that a penalty shoot-out was inevitable, Götze stepped up to the plate and became the hero, volleying home first-time past the despairing dive of Romero to become the first substitute to score the winner in a World Cup final. The Bayern Munich man has been a surprisingly peripheral figure given his sparkling performances at club level, but given how young the current crop of players are, the likelihood is that they will replicate these golden moments for years to come.
The goal sparked jubilant scenes in the Berlin ‘fan mile’, where around 250,000 people turned out around the Brandenburg Gate to watch their national team emerge victorious. After several near misses at recent tournaments, Germany finally picked up their first major title in eighteen years, and their performances serve as a warning to the rest of the world that they could embark on a sustained period of dominance.
There was some controversy after the match, with Lionel Messi picking up the Golden Ball (awarded to the best player of the tournament). Many felt that the award should have either gone to James Rodriguez or Müller, with Javier Mascherano also arguably more influential than his countryman in their march to the final. However, the night belonged to Germany.
Featured image: BBC
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