Winners and Losers from the 2014 World Cup Final
The 2014 FIFA World Cup has come to an end. Germany have been crowned champions of the world after a 1-0 win over Argentina after extra time on Sunday.
Almost 120 minutes couldn't separate the two teams, until a late strike from Mario Gotze won the day.
"It is unbelievable," Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said, per FIFA.com. "The team has done superbly, not only the players, but also the team behind the team. At some point we will stop celebrating, but we will always stand up again with a smile."
As ever, there was far more to the game than a simple scoreline. Here are all the biggest winners and losers from the 2014 final.
Loser: Sami Khedira, Injured in the Warm-Up
Missing out on the World Cup finals through injury must be bad enough. That's the fate which befell such German players as Marco Reus and Lars Bender, back before it all began.
For Sami Khedira though, the situation must have felt 10 times worse. He recovered from a season-long knee injury in time to take a place in the World Cup squad and help his side progress through the groups and the knock-outs—only to take an injury in the warm-up of the final.
Just minutes before the biggest game of his career, injury halted his participation.
Winner: Christoph Kramer...and Then Andre Schurrle
With Khedira's injury came an unexpected opportunity for Christoph Kramer, with the 23-year-old midfielder being handed his first ever competitive start for his nation...in the World Cup final, of all places.
Unfortunately for the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, his dream introduction lasted just half an hour after he suffered a heavy head injury in a collision between two Argentina defenders.
As such, Andre Schurrle was handed an earlier-than-expected chance to impress from the bench, as Jogi Low altered his formation a little in the process.
Loser: Gonzalo Higuain's Gilt-Edged Chance
Argentina thought they'd taken the lead when striker Gonzalo Higuain side-footed home in the first half, only for him to be flagged offside—but he had an even better chance before that.
Higuain latched onto a misplaced headed back-pass to have a free run at goal...only to skew his shot woefully off target with just the keeper to beat.
His miss spared the blushes of Toni Kroos, who made the headed pass and otherwise would have found his own name here instead of Higuain's.
Winner: Offside Flag Calls at Either End
The officials and assistants were completely on the ball in the first half, putting in their own World Cup final-worthy performance.
A sharp offside flag went up against Higuain to deny him a would-be goal, while Thomas Mueller saw a flag up against him as he looked to get on the end of a number of balls, including a rebound off the post.
With so much at stake and small margins between the decisions, it was impressive to see all the big calls made correctly.
Loser: Lionel Messi's Big Chance
Lionel Messi made the final, but he couldn't get his side over the line.
He never really hit his true heights at the World Cup, but still found moments to drag goals and assists out of himself—but, at the final, he was only intermittently involved, went missing for too long in the second half and spurned one of the best chances of the game as he screwed a shot wide on his left foot.
If he was merely waiting for the moment of ultimate impact, a 120th-minute free kick would have been exactly that—but Messi blazed the set piece miles over the bar.
Still only 27, Messi likely will have another chance to win a World Cup. But the sense remains that Sunday was his big chance to match his countryman Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to their second title in 1986.
Of course, Messi is already regarded as perhaps the best player of his generation. Whether or not he wins the World Cup, his status as one of the all-time greats is already secure.
Writing for the Daily Mail on Messi's big chance, Ian Ladyman noted:
His place in the pantheon remains, of course. He doesn’t need a World Cup winner’s medal for that and it should be remembered that this is some way from a great Argentina team.
Victory here would have put him in the elite company of his some of his heroes, though. His chance may not come again.
Greatest current player or not, Messi hasn't been able to add a World Cup to his list of achievements to rank him along with the likes of Diego Maradona.
Winners: Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Mascherano for Argentina
Argentina's top performers on the night came in the shape of right-back Pablo Zabaleta and holding midfielder Javier Mascherano.
Both of them were fiercely committed. They won any number of challenges, kept the ball moving well and helped maintain the team's attacking momentum from deep.
As it happens, the winning goal came from a cross which neither of them were able to cut out down the Germany left—but the defeat had nothing to do with their feats during the game.
Loser: Rodrigo Palacio and the Finishing in the Match
It was tense, tight and tactical for much of the 120 minutes, with clear chances few and far between—but when sightings of goal did open up, invariably the finishing was below par.
Higuain was the first offender in the first half of the game, but as time went on, Leo Messi, Andre Schurrle and, in particular, Rodrigo Palacio all missed highly presentable chances.
Palacio took the ball down on his chest for a one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, but he lost his head and chipped the keeper off target, rather than planting a low shot on target. Argentina did not manage a single shot on target in the 120 minutes.
Winners: Jerome Boateng and Bastian Schweinsteiger for Germany
Germany's top performers were also a midfielder and a defender.
Jerome Boateng was superb at the heart of the defence, making countless block tackles and covering behind his defensive partners.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, meanwhile, put in a sublime all-around performance which took in the entire pitch—creating, destroying, marking, cajoling and everything else in between. A top performance on the biggest stage of all.
Loser: Sergio Aguero, Lucky Not to See Red
There were perhaps a couple of players who were walking a fine line with being shown a red card in the final. Javier Mascherano put in a couple of challenges after already having a yellow card, and Bastian Schweinsteiger did likewise.
The biggest offender, though, was Sergio Aguero. Already carded after only entering the game at half-time, he made another couple of clumsy fouls thereafter which easily could have seen a second yellow.
Late in extra time came the biggest talking point of all, as Aguero swung an arm into the face of Schweinsteiger, bloodying the German considerably. It reasonably could have been a straight red; it should have at least been a second yellow.
Winner: Mario Gotze, Goalscorer and Hero
Mario Gotze started the World Cup tournament in the Germany starting XI before losing his place to Miroslav Klose, resulting in the Bayern Munich forward being called upon as substitute in the final itself.
Having scored perhaps the scruffiest goal of Brazil 2014 earlier in the tournament—a misfired, kneed effort which bobbled in against Portugal—he came up with the most important goal of all against Argentina.
With just a few minutes of extra time left, the 22-year-old made a run which pulled off the defender, chested control and hit a fantastic left-footed volley, winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup for Germany.