Substitute Mario Gotze scored in the 113th minute to propel Germany to their fourth FIFA World Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
After 90 scoreless minutes of regular time failed to produce a winner, Gotze produced an impressive finish from Andre Schurrle's cross to end Argentina's stout resistance.
Until then, the teams cancelled each other out for much of the match. With Germany unable to replicate the attacking brilliance of their 7-1 victory over Brazil in the semi-finals, Argentina came within seven minutes of keeping a clean sheet for the fourth time in as many knockout matches.
Not that the game was entirely without chances.
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain missed a clear-cut chance in the first half, moments before he had a goal ruled out for offside. And in extra time, substitute Rodrigo Palacio missed another opportunity, lifting his shot wide with only German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to beat. Germany previously had come close through defender Benedikt Howedes, who hit the post with a powerful header just before half-time.
With the win, Germany became the first European side to win the World Cup in the Americas and pulled even with Italy for the second-most titles of all time, one behind Brazil's record five. Die Mannschaft had not lifted the trophy since 1990, when West Germany defeated Argentina in the final.
Having finally won silverware following semi-final exits at Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup, Germany's golden generation—led by young stars like Gotze, Schurrle, Neuer, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil—will now fancy themselves to gain further glory at Euro 2016 in France.
For Argentina and Lionel Messi, it's a missed opportunity to match the 1986 title-winning side, led so famously by Diego Maradona. Widely hailed as the best player of his generation, Messi still has not won the World Cup, but he will likely have another chance in four years' time in Russia.
As a small measure of consolation, Messi took home the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player. But as he accepted the award after the match, the look on his face told its own story of abject disappointment.
As the scoreline would suggest, the victory was far from easy for Joachim Low's side. Moments before kick-off, midfielder Sami Khedira pulled out of the match after sustaining a calf injury in warm-ups, per Germany's official Twitter account. He was replaced by Christoph Kramer.
Kramer then suffered an injury of his own, leaving the match momentarily in the 18th minute after receiving a blow to the head. He returned moments later but was replaced permanently by substitute Andre Schurrle in the 31st minute.
The match settled into a clear pattern within moments of kick-off, Germany holding the majority of possession and Argentina trying to attack on the counter. The strategy proved effective for both sides, with chances coming at either end throughout the half.
The first big opportunity fell to Argentina in the 21st minute following a defensive mistake by Germany. Toni Kroos was the culprit, misdirecting a header into the path of Higuain behind the defence. With plenty of time to pick his spot, Higuain scuffed a poor effort well wide of the target.
Nine minutes later, Higuain thought he had scored after side-footing in a cross from Ezequiel Lavezzi. But the goal was ruled out for offside, with replays showing Higuain at least a yard past the last defender.
Germany hit back with a quick attack in the 37th minute, Mueller picking out Schurrle, whose first-time shot was saved high at the near post. Three minutes later at the other end, Jerome Boateng had to clear off his own line after Messi burst into the box and rounded German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Just before half-time, the Germans nearly went ahead with their best chance of the opening 45 minutes. Kroos curled in a corner from the right for an unmarked Howedes, who powered a close-range header off the post. Mueller tried and failed to turn in the rebound but was ruled offside regardless.
Argentina had a glorious chance to take the lead just after half-time, Messi racing free onto a Lucas Biglia through ball on the left. But with only Neuer to beat, Messi dragged his shot past the far post.
The match then became more disjointed for the rest of normal time, with the teams combining for more fouls and bookings than clear chances. Germany produced perhaps the best chance of the latter stages, Kroos rolling a shot off target following fine build-up play on the right by Philipp Lahm and Mesut Ozil.
After 90 scoreless minutes, the opening goal nearly arrived just moments into extra time. Mario Gotze set up the chance for Schurrle, whose poked shot was saved by Sergio Romero.
Argentina came closer still in the 97th minute, when Palacio pulled down a looping ball on the edge of Germany's box. But with Neuer rushing off his line, Palacio lifted his shot wide of the post.
It proved a costly miss. Six minutes later, Germany claimed the breakthrough.
Schurrle set up the chance, crossing from the left for Gotze at the near post. With impressive ease, Gotze played the ball expertly with his chest before volleying past Romero for the winner.
There was still time for Messi to save his side, but the superstar blasted a free-kick well off target in the closing moments.
|Germany Player Ratings|
|Andre Schurrle (for Kramer, 32')||6||6||7|
|Mario Gotze (for Klose, 88')||N/A||6||8|
|Per Mertesacker (for Ozil, 120')||N/A||N/A||No rating|
|Argentina Player Ratings|
|Sergio Aguero (for Lavezzi, 45')||N/A||5||5|
|Rodrigo Palacio (for Higuain, 78')||N/A||5||5|
|Fernando Gago (for Perez, 86')||N/A||5||5|
Germany captain Philipp Lahm (via FIFA.com):
It's unbelievable what we have achieved. We improved throughout the tournament and didn't get down when things didn't always go our way.
We just stuck to our path and at the end we're standing here as world champions. It's an unbelievable feeling. The team stayed calm and patient, we knew that we had something left at the end.
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (via FIFA.com):
It is unbelievable. 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.
Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano (via FIFA.com):
The pain is immense. We wanted to win this for the people of Argentina, for those who came here to support us, but we lost.
We have represented our country the best we could, though. We have to lift our heads despite the pain. We gave everything we could out there.
We had the best chances but we didn't take them. And we only had to last another five minutes at the end. We just didn't have that little bit of luck that you need in a final.
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